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and to intimate to that gentleman, that in the event of his persisting in his intention, the committee would be under the necessity of disclaiming the act. Mr. Bickersteth, it appears, requested that a few days might be allowed him for consideration-in fact, that he might consult his friends in Scotland, intimating to the sub-committee, however, that he probably should not give up going to Edinburgh, if the local committee, by whom he had been invited to preach, persisted in their request.
In this part of the business we consider Mr. Bickersteth’s conduct to be both unjustifiable and also unfair towards the Church Missionary Society. What right has any private individual to do things which must necessarily implicate a whole society ? Whatever may have been his previous services and we have no wish to call them in question, Mr. Bickersteth ought not to have presumed that he was the society, or that he was at liberty to act contrary to the advice and the earnest entreaty of the committee. To say that he must keep his promise to the Edinburgh committee, unless they released him therefrom, was certainly not the way to heal the breach in Scotland, or to promote the cause of the society in England. The friends of Sir William Dunbar were so far committed to that gentleman's schismatic course that they would naturally rejoice to have Mr. Bickersteth's sanction to his error. Nothing could please them more—it was the very thing they wished. Consequently, when Mr. Bickersteth intimated that he should not comply with the request of the committee in London unless released from his promise by the committee in Edinburgh, he must have known that they would insist upon his going thither. We cannot, therefore, but censure this part of Mr. Bickersteth's conduct: and sure we are that it must be condemned by every sound and consistent Churchman. He ought, if he had been anxious for the cause, not to have regarded a few persons in Edinburgh, whose conduct was such as to call for censure from the Church, but to have even yielded his own views and wishes to those of the mmittee, who certainly were better judges than he could possibly be of what was proper, under the circumstances of the society. After this first meeting there was no hope that Mr. Bickersteth would desist from his projected course. tainly evinced anything in his decision but a principle of Churchmanship; for Sir William Dunbar, whatever may be said by lukewarm Churchmen, is in a state of schism, having separated from the only bishop to whom he could possibly pay or render canonical obedience.
Another meeting took place between the sub-committee and
Mr. Bickersteth, when the latter gentleman declared his intention of preaching for Sir William Dunbar, in obedience to the wishes of his Edinburgh friends. The sub-committee then told him that he would act on his own responsibility—as a private person, and not as the representative of the society. So ended the conference between the sub-committee and Mr. Bickersteth. To Scotland accordingly Mr. Bickersteth proceeded; and at the appointed time he made his appearance in Sir William Dunbar's pulpit. All we know of the sermon, or sermons, is from the newspapers, in which it was stated that he expressed his pleasure and satisfaction at being permitted to appear in that pulpit, that he sympathized with Sir W. Dunbar in his present course, and that all he had done met with his approval. On general principles, it matters not what Mr. Bickersteth, or any other individual, may think of Sir William Dunbar's conduct; but it is evident that the latter has more regard for the approbation of the former, than for that of the lawful governors of the Church, to whom, as a Churchman, he is pledged to submit. Mr. Bickersteth, therefore, would act a similar part in Scotland with Sir William Dunbar. Then why not do the same in England ? Mr. Bickersteth has not more liberty here than his friend Sir William had in Scotland. Why, then, does Mr. Bickersteth remain within the pale of the Church in this country, when he has distinctly stated that he should separate, were he in Scotland, while no circumstances existed there which do not equally exist here? There is something mysterious in this line of conduct-something, certainly, which we do not understand.
We may put another case to Mr. Bickersteth. An Episcopalian must be subject to Episcopal authority. This point is clear. Sir William Dunbar is subject to no such authority; consequently it is vain and childish to talk of his Church principles or his Episcopal subjection. He has set up a chapel on his own account, just as seceders in England have done. We should like to know, from Mr. Bickersteth, what difference there is between the conduct of Sir William Dunbar, and Mr. Harrington Evans, Mr. Bridgman, Mr. Rees, Mr. Bulteel, or any of those who, within the last few years, have quitted the Anglican Church, and are now preaching in meeting-houses? We ask again, would Mr. Bickersteth venture to preach for any of those gentlemen? Yet what difference is there, as far as principle is concerned, between their conduct and Sir William Dunbar's? We cannot discover any. The latter acts in defiance of the Church and of bishops in Scotland—the former do the same in England; and it strikes us, that the fact that an Anglican bishop cannot interpose his authority for what his clergy may do in Scotland, should make a clergyman equally observant, in that country, of his conduct, in order that there might not be even room for suspicion. Whatever, therefore, may be said by Mr. Bickersteth's advocates, it cannot be denied that he has been guilty of an act in Scotland which he would not commit in England. He preached in the chapel of a seceder in Scotland, he will not do the same in the diocese of Lincoln or of London ; yet the act, irrespective of country, is equally opposed, whether perpetrated in the one or in the other, to the principles of the Catholic Church, and is consequently equally reprehensible.
We admit that the Church Missionary Society are placed in a difficulty, and that they cannot, in ordinary circumstances, interfere with local committees. But the Church must not be injured from any unwillingness on the part of a society to act in cases of difficulty or delicacy. It strikes us that, if Sir William Dunbar persists in his present course, it will be the duty of the society to have no connexion with a committee of which he is the secretary. If they do not cease all connexion with such a man, the society must eventually suffer injury, by the withdrawal of much of that support which is as yet afforded to it. Besides, there is the Propagation Society, so that the friends of missions will not be at any loss for an institution to which they can lend their assistance, and whose objects are the same. Undoubtedly, a considerable number of the present supporters of the society would adhere to it, and even prefer it, were it composed entirely of men of similar views respecting Church principles with Sir William Dunbar and Mr. Bickersteth.
Before we quit this subject, it may not be amiss to notice a line of argument-if, indeed, it can be dignified with the name of argument-adopted by certain persons, whenever an appeal is made to the expressed and authorized sense of the Church of England. It is not uncommon to hear even clergymen, when the Church is mentioned as an arbiter on certain questions of doctrine or practice, allege-Oh, we go to the Bible--the Bible stands before the Church? Now it seems that these parties forget that they have subscribed to those views respecting matters which, perhaps, are not fully expressed in the written word, which the Church has herself adopted. Nay, every clergyman has solemnly pledged himself to those views of doctrine, discipline, and practice, which the Church herself holds, and which she has embodied in her various formularies; consequently, no one can adopt opinions of a contrary tendency without compromising his character as a member of that body to which he belongs. When, therefore, we hear clergymen talk of an appeal to the Bible on those points which the Church has settled, and which they themselves have sworn to be agreeable to the Bible, since the Church decrees nothing contrary, to the word of God, we know very well that the parties mean nothing more nor less than some private and previously formed opinions of their own, or rather, certain
views of the Scriptures which they themselves have formed. The boast of an appeal to the Bible comes with a bad grace from such persons, since it means only an adherence to a set of peculiar opinions which they choose to consider as their views of the word of God, whereas they may have pledged themselves to directly the contrary. The Church appeals to the Bible. The views of our formularies are those of the Bible—they were those of the Reformers, of the primitive Church, and of the Church Catholic in all ages ; but the men who reject the Church, and talk of the Bible, throw discredit on the word of God, by deriving from it opinions which it does not contain, and which, consequently, the Church of England has rejected.
THE REFORMATION SOCIETY.
Of the objects contemplated by the Reformation Society we most cordially approve, though we dissent from the principle of merely taking the ground of opposition to Popery without reference to Churchmen or Dissenters. We hold that, in religious matters, Churchmen and Dissenters cannot unite without a compromise of principle on one side or on the other. It is quite impossible for Churchmen to unite with Dissenters in a Reformation Society, because our discipline, which was a part of the Reformation, is rejected by Dissenters, and is so interwoven with doctrine that the two cannot be separated. It is not, however, our intention to discuss this question on the present occasion; we allude to the subject simply for the purpose of pointing out what we conceive to have been--what shall we say ? an error? no! but an absurdity, in the last report of the Society, In that document the committee of the society allude especially to Oxford, and to the opinions contained in the Tracts for the Times. The gentlemen constituting that committee undertake to point out an error in the Oxford system of education. They complain of the impossibility of attending to theological pursuits. They allege, that so much attention is paid to classics and mathematics, that no time can be spared for theology, and they, of course, call for an alteration. It appears that they attribute the success of the Tracts for the Times to this cause. Such is the opinion of the Reformation Society.
Now we do not mean to enter into the abstract question involved in the remarks of the committee—on this point we will only add, that Oxford men, who are the only competent judges, form a very different opinion; but what we wish to remark upon is the singularity of the proceeding. Let it be considered of whom the committee is composed. Who are the society's officers ? Generally the officers of a society draw up the report of the society, though the whole committee are responsible for the document. Looking, then, at the officers and the committee of the Reformation Society (and we have the highest respect for these gentlemen), will it be admitted that they are competent judges of such a question, or that they are in a position to give advice to a University ? We apprehend but one answer from all who understand the matter. Sure we are that they would at once concur with us, that the committee are necessarily disqualified from entering upon such a question. Are the members acquainted with the University of Oxford? Or, if they were members, would they be able to decide a question of such importance ? At all events, can it be disposed of in a small report? Looking at the question itself, and taking into the account the character of the committee, we cannot but think that the proceeding on the part of the society is truly ridiculous. It cannot recommend the cause with sound Churchmen, though it may do so with some of those inconsistent persons whose zeal against the Tracts has actually eaten up their Churchmanship. The Reformation Society may oppose the Tracts and their authors, but they have no right to make reflections on the Oxford system of education, of which they know nothing positively as a committee, even if one individual of the body should be a member of that University. Supposing the evil to exist, which we strenuously deny, we should say that such a body as the committee of the Reformation Society are not the proper persons to apply a remedy: Their ignorance of the peculiar circumstances of the case disqualifies them from giving an opinion. In all other matters it would be thought very absurd for persons to offer an opinion on questions with which they must of necessity be unacquainted. Why, then, should a few gentlemen in London presume to interfere in such a matter? They are quite as competent (yea, far more so) to reform the army or the navy, as to effect a change in the system of education adopted in that University.