To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken: behold, the word of the LORD is unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it. Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein. Also I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet. But they said, We will not hearken. Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded;
~ Jeremiah 6:10, Jeremiah 6:16-17, Proverbs 1:24
Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
~ John 6:60-65, John 6:44
To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; Seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee.
~ Proverbs 1:2, Psalm 50:17
I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.
~ John 8:24
But if they obey not, they shall perish by the sword, and they shall die without knowledge.
~ Job 36:12
The Cause of Church Extension, and the Question Shortly Stated Between Churchmen and Churchmen and Dissenters in Regard to It, by Thomas Chalmers. This is an excerpt from Section Three his work, “Church and College Establishments, Church Extension and the Parochial System.
Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.
~ Luke 14:16-24
Our cause has suffered much by its common appellative of Church Accommodation. It has been the fertile parent of misconceptions and errors innumerable. It is true it is only a word. But philosophy tells of the influence of words upon thoughts; and never was this so verified by experience as in the history of our proceedings, and more especially in the obstinacy of that misunderstanding which we have had to encounter, and which, with all our most anxious and repeated explanations, we have never been able to dislodge, or get the better of. Church accommodation, in common apprehension, is but significant of church-room; and hence the wide-spread delusion, that enough of church-room is our great specific for the moral regeneration of the country. No wonder that this mystic faith in cannot comprehend. We have long lamented the evil influence of this our designation, and laboured with all our might against it; but without effect. Let us reason and illustrate as we may, the power of no demonstration of ours will ever carry it over the power of that simple vocabulary Church Accommodation. The lengthened argument will never dissipate the spell which is wrapt up and concentrated in the single term –on every repetition of which is lighted up again the old association, the old and obstinate prejudice. We shall only shake ourselves loose of the mischief we have suffered from this term by quitting it altogether. The thing we are seeking to accomplish will come to be better understood, after we have made our escape from the mischievous, the magical influence of its unhappy name.
We have for many months been sensible of this misnomer, and of the heavy disadvantage under which it has laid our cause. We long to be delivered from it. We trust that the next General Assembly will take from us our present most undescriptive title, and substitute another and a better in its place. We greatly prefer Church Extension* to Church Accommodation, though even this is not fully or adequately expressive of our object. But a name should be brief as well as comprehensive; and, in the present instance, we find it extremely difficult to devise a name that shall combine both these properties; or so to express the whole design of our Committee by its designation, as to avoid what were much too cumbersome and complex and circumlocutory for the purposes of a title. And by adopting the new title of Church Extension, we shall at least rid ourselves of the injury that we have sustained from the old one of Church Accommodation, under which we have been regarded as a mere Committee of stone and lime; or as if actuated by the Quixotic imagination, that on the strength of churches alone, viewed but in the light of a material apparatus, we were to Christianise the population expecting of these new erections, that, like so many fairy castles, they were, of themselves, to transform every domain in which they were placed into a moral fairyland; and to operate, by their very presence or juxtaposition, some mighty and mysterious change on the hearts and habits of the surrounding householders. On the simple abandonment of our present designation, these illusions would all be rectified; and the public might come at length to see, in sober earnest, the actual realities, and soberly to estimate the rational likelihoods of our undertaking.
* This is now the current designation of our cause both in England and Scotland.
So much for the proper name of our undertaking. But a more important matter is the precise object of it. To explain this is the design of the following pages, in the composition of which we have studied two things. First, to be so brief as that we might be generally read; Secondly, to be so explicit was that we might be generally understood. For the better achievement of this end, we shall present our statements in the order of so many distinct propositions, couched in the fewest possible words; but so as that, while the meaning is expressed as concisely, it may be also expressed as clearly as is practicable; and for this latter purpose, we, on fit occasions, shall superadd an illustrative example.
i. Ours has been denominated a Church-Building Scheme; and it is when viewed according to the naked generality of this description, that it lies naked and open to the principal and most plausible objections which have been made against it. A great deal of the precipitate hostility to which we have been exposed, arises from the hasty, and, therefore, partial glimpses which men have taken of us. They have seen our object in parts only, and not in full; and thus it has been sadly misconceived, just because beheld in some of its single features, instead of being beheld completely and comprehensively. It is on purpose that men might see in full, that which hitherto they have only seen in parts, that we have drawn up the following propositions, which might be prefaced thus by this our first proposition, that we shall make a negative one. It is not a sufficient account of our enterprise to say of it simply and generally, that it is to build churches in those places where we judge that they are wanted.
2. We should be coming nearer to the full and proper comprehension of the enterprise, did we take into our view not only the church which we build, but the vicinity for whose good it is intended. The church is erected, not for the purpose of being filled as it may by the attractive powers of its minister; but erected with a special and distinct reference to the Christian good of the families by whom it is surrounded. We shall never be understood, so long as the church is regarded in its naked and separate existence alone, without being regarded in the affinity which it bears to the assigned district in the midst of which it is situated. The whole peculiarity of our scheme lies in this; and, while this is kept out of sight, we shall never have done with the unintelligent crudities of those by whom we are made the objects of a perpetual misrepresentation. The church is planted for the express benefit of certain unprovided families occupying a given district that has been previously explored, and whose limits have been previously determined, and the specific thing on which we rest, and are willing to rest exclusively the merits of our cause, is the footing upon which the relation is established between this church and these families. (1.) We provide them with a church near enough, else they are still unprovided families. (2.) We are labouring to provide them with a church at seat-rents low enough, else they are obviously still unprovided families. (3.) We take care that the district be small enough, and its families few enough to be thoroughly pervaded by the week-day attentions of a clergyman; else in one most important respect these families would still be unprovided, because not provided with a minister who might assume the pastoral superintendence, and discharge it so fully as to become the counsellor and Christian friend of one and all of them. The main strength of our case lies, not in ours being a new place of worship additional to the old ones that were previously in existence; but in ours being distinguished from all the others, by the new relation in which it stands to the outer field that is immediately around it, and that we have allocated for its parish. And as the church is thus appropriated to the use of its particular locality, so the duties of its minister are as much appropriated to the people within its limits it being his specific business not to fill that church from the general neighbourhood, or from the wide and universal town, but to fill that church out of that parish. It is for the express purpose of making this a possible or likely achievement, that we enact the three conditions which we have specified, holding them indispensable to such a constitution of a church, as that its minister may, without stepping beyond the limits of a manageable home-walk, sustain and fully acquit himself, both of the ministerial and pastoral relation to the people of the same little vicinity. Were we sure that our reader would retain in his mind the three elements which we have now put together into one combination, then, by the means of a single word, might we convey to him the precise and characteristic object at which we aim. Instead of looking to the church in its individuality, let him look to the manner in which we propose that it shall be conjoined with the local territory in which it stands, and let him agree, because of this conjunction, to its being called a local or territorial church-then our object is, not in the general to build churches, but to plant territorial churches in those places where we judge that they are wanted.
3. Let us now offer a few specimens of the grounds on which we judge such a church to be wanted; and this chiefly with the view of impressing the all-important distinction between existent church-room, and available church-room. If there be not enough of existent church-room, this creates a necessity too palpable to be insisted on; but it may so happen that there is enough of existent church-room in a given parish, and yet there be localities in that parish in a state of most grievous ecclesiastical destitution. The parish church may be no territorial church to them, as when it wants the first property of such a church. It may not be near enough. The physical barrier of an impracticable distance may be interposed between them and their nearest place of worship; in which case, although there were a surplus accommodation in their own parish church, it might be of little or no avail to them. And still less would it alleviate the necessity under which they labour, to be told of the wide and general calculations by which the enemies of our cause are attempting to establish, that there is not only enough of accommodation, but a surplus of it for the whole of Scotland. Examples:- At Snizort, in Skye, there is the populous hamlet of Uigg, which, with the district surrounding it, at two miles on every side, contains a population of 700 inhabitants, at the distance of eight miles from their parish church. In Shieldag, there is the district of Kishorn, with a dense population of 600, at the distance of ten or twelve miles from any place of worship. At Fort-William there is a population of 1600, separated from the parish church by an arm of the sea and the river Lochy, which ought to be erected into a parish. At Locharkaig there are families thirty-four miles from the parish church, and with no access to any other place of worship. At and about Lybster in Caithness, there is a population of 1500, distant four and six miles from the two nearest places of worship, both small enough for their own contiguous families. In Glenelg there is the village of Amisdale, with 900 people, and at the distance of twelve or fourteen miles from the parish church. We shall conclude this list of examples by a statement of the good done in providing for a case far less aggravated than any of them. The population of the parish of Largs in Ayrshire is about 3000. The number of sittings in the established church was 900, besides which there of another denomination, who assemble, we understand, in a place that could accommodate 100 people more. At all events, about two years ago, we had in this parish a stable population of about 3000, and in the establishment and dissent together, more than 1600 sittings. What cause, it might be asked, was there for any addition either to the size or number of places of worship in this particular locality? and yet there has been a recent enlargement of the parish church at Largs to the extent of 440 sittings; but this perhaps may be placed to the account of the exotic population who repair in summer to this beautiful watering-place. But what is still more decisive, there has, over and above, been the erection, within the parish, of an altogether new church with 300 sittings, in the village of Fairley, and to which a locality of 500 people is on the eve of being assigned. Now, mark the effect of the new church there, of a more strictly local or territorial character to the people of Fairley than their old parish church was. Without taking any rigid inventory on the subject, it was quite palpable that the number who went from Fairley to Largs on the Sabbath-day did not average more than fifty; or in other words, that a very large population were left at home, to whom the inconvenient distance of three miles proved an effectual obstacle in the way of their attendance, and with whom, in consequence of this, the habit had fallen into utter desuetude. It would have been in vain to allege to these people the abundance of existent church-room, either in the Dissent or Establishment at Largs. The destitution lay, not in the want of existent, but in the want of commodious and available church-room; and this could only be supplied, not by a provision of church-room at such a distance from their habitations, but of church-room in a state of juxtaposition. And certain it is, such is the efficacy of this juxtaposition, since their own little church has been built in the midst of them, and still more of the presence and attentions of its residing minister;-such, in other words, is the benefit of a place of worship, combining all the properties of a territorial church, that, with a speed and suddenness truly encouraging for a similar enterprise in all similar situations, the village has been reclaimed to the decencies of Sabbath observation. The seats are all taken and respectably filled. The peace, and let 18 hope, the piety of a Scottish Sabbath have superadded a moral beauty to the great natural beauties which abound in this scene of many attractions; and the general attendance throughout the year gives cheering evidence to an almost universal restoration of the habit of the good olden time among the families.*
4. But this property, of being near enough, is only one of the properties of what we have defined to be a rightly constituted local or territorial church. Yet, as being the most palpable to the senses, it is that wherewith the unintelligent and unthinking are apt to be satisfied, though the other essential qualifications should be wanting. And thus we can far more easily demonstrate to their satisfaction the necessity for new places of Worship in large country parishes than their necessity in towns, where churches meet the eye in almost every direction; and in which, more especially, if there be a great deal of vacant room every Sabbath, the proof against any assertion of the ecclesiastical wants of the people is held to be absolutely conclusive. Example:- In the three Edinburgh parishes of Old Greyfriars, Lady Yester’s, and Tron Church, we have a population of 10,244, comprehensive of the whole Cowgate, and many other alleys beside; and for whom a provision of church-room, to the extent of little more than 5000 sittings, ought to be sufficient. But to meet this want, we can allege no less than nine places of worship, either within the limits of the territory now specified, or on its immediate confines —-for we have the three parish churches; and Brighton Street Chapel on the very margin of the locality; and the Gaelic Chapel, with the North College Street Independent Meeting-house, both at the head of the Horse Wynd, which terminates in the Cowgate; and the Cowgate Chapel; and the Original Burgher Meeting-house in Gray’s Close; and the Original Seceder Meeting-house in Infirmary Street, long under the able ministrations of the venerable and learned Professor Paxton. Here, then, are nine places of worship wherewith this particular region of the town is studded; and yet, a region which has been represented as in a state of the greatest ecclesiastical destitution. The accommodation is not, we believe, overrated at 9000 sittings; and, besides such an overplus of existent church-room, it has all the benefit of the property of juxtaposition to make it available. Something is wanted to explain and reconcile these things; and more especially to make folk understand how there should be such
* It ought to be remarked, that the lowness of the seat-rents in this chapel could not have been secured but for the engagement of wealthy and benevolent individuals to become responsible for a stipend to the minister. This engagement, on their part, is tantamount to an endowment; and it is precisely for the purpose pf multiplying this benefit, and making it permanent and universal, that a small endowment is sought from Government, for all similar erections.
a want of church-accommodation for the families of the Cowgate, when there exists such a superabundance of that accommodation, and a great deal of it lying waste and tenantless at their very doors.
5. To help us out of this difficulty, we must take into account the other properties of a rightly constituted territorial church, beside that of nearness or juxtaposition, and see whether these two have been realised. The second general property is, that the seat-rents be low enough for the circumstances of the general population. A seat-rent higher than they can pay may be just as effectual a barrier in the way of their attendance church as a distance greater than they can walk; and however numerous, and however near the places of worship may be to the families in question, still, in the proper ecclesiastical sense of the word, they are unprovided families. Example To keep by the territory that we have already specified, the average seat-rent of the three parish churches is about ten shillings a sitting,-obviously too high even for a single occupier, if he be of the working classes, but amounting to an absolute interdict on their attendance in families. We have not ascertained the seat-rents of the different chapels in this locality. We have heard of such an average as seven shillings for each individual sitting, obviously too high also. At all events, the produce of the seat-rents is the great fund out of which the annual expenses, and more especially the maintenance of the clergyman are defrayed. This must create a necessarily higher rent than the people of a plebeian district can generally afford. I should expect, in these circumstances, a smaller attendance of the lower orders on the Established Churches than on the Dissenting Meeting-houses. As matters are at present ordered, the Dissenters will reach somewhat farther down in the scale of society; and collect a greater number of hearers, both from among the lowest of the middle and highest of the working classes, than the Church does. But it should not at all surprise me, though the general mass of the working classes in the Cowgate and its environs were alike unreached and unpenetrated by both.
6. But there are still other phenomena to be alleged, which, without a comprehensive view of all the particulars that enter into the constitution of a territorial church, will appear to be subversive of our whole argument. There are low-rented sittings in the churches of the Establishment, which, nevertheless, remain unlet; and there are even examples alleged of free sittings, and that too in large and goodly proportion, in the chapels of the Dissenters, which nevertheless remain unoccupied. Our general solution of both these phenomena is, that, to effect a popular movement, something more is necessary than the removal of an obstacle. A movement requires an impulse, and the application of a moving or motive force, which, in this instance, is brought to bear upon the families by the missionary attentions of the clergyman; and these rendered greatly more effective, if backed by an active and zealous surveillance on the part of a well-appointed agency-whether in the shape of elders, or the teachers of local Sabbath-schools. It is not enough that the church-doors be opened to the people, or that an easy and practicable access be obtained for them to the house of God, if among them there have been no previous tendency to that direction. The great secret is how to give this tendency, a matter altogether distinct from that of taking impediments out of the way. In other words, we must do something more than provide facilities, –we must supply inducements, or put certain impellent forces into busy and aggressive operation. To abridge the distance of the church, or lower its seat-rents, is but the displacement of a barrier,-a very different thing truly from the application of a positive and efficient cause, without which nature will persist in its sluggishness and deep indifferency; and in which, after many years of neglect, we are not to wonder that whole aggregates of population are now found to be inveterately though not immovably settled. Still it is obvious, that, to overcome the long established habit of a long and obstinate desuetude, something more is necessary than a church with the first and second properties which we have assigned as indispensable. As indispensable as either, and having itself all the efficiency in our process of restoration, is the third property of a small enough parish for the clergyman not only thoroughly to explore, but thoroughly to cultivate; and who, with the benefit of a full parochial equipment at bis command, might bring all the force of that moral suasion which lies in personal converse and the unwearied kindness of his family ministrations to bear upon the householders.– Examples:—The parochial, or as it may be called the territorial system, is completely broken up in most of our large towns; and, instead of saying that the parishes are neglected by their ministers, it were more just and candid to say that the ministers, occupied with general congregations, are dissevered from their parishes. They are not in fair circumstances for so labouring in their respective localities, as, by means of their week-day attentions, to secure the Sabbath attendance of their parochial families. And when to this is added the engrossment by others of their best and largest church accommodation-then to reproach them with the degeneracy of our plebeian families, is to treat them as so many slaves in the hands of Egyptian taskmasters, required not only to make a quantity of bricks, doubly greater than is competent to human strength, but to make them without straw. It is but the mockery of an alleviation to tell them of the few low-rented sittings in each of our churches. The experiment will not be a fair one till they have the command of a whole church for a whole parish, when they will reclaim their people in fifties much faster than, with only a few scantlings of degraded and disreputable places which must first be filled ere anything better can be offered to them, they will reclaim them in tens or in fives. However difficult it may be to convey this truth to certain understandings, still it is demonstrable, that a minister in the former condition will find it easier to ignite the general mass of his parochial community, than in the latter condition, to keep alive a few dying embers, or fan some rare and isolated particles of the dead and dormant heap into vitality.* And the experience of the dissenting chapels is equally instructive. Their ministers are very rarely, perhaps never, known to charge themselves overhead with the families of any given district. I am aware of the incompatibility between such a charge and the charge of their general congregations; and therefore to be done effectually they should limit themselves, in the first instance, to a very small section, which, in addition to their other and previous engagements, they might thoroughly overtake. If & slip of territory contiguous to one of their meeting-houses were plied by the constant attentions of its minister to all the sick and the dying and the young within its confines, accompanied by the offer of household ministrations, and of Sabbath room in a chapel at their doors, one should like to know by what reaction of attendance, on the part of the families, it would at length be followed up. To tell of the difficulties or the delicacies of such an experiment, is just to tell of the grievous incapacity under which all our voluntary chapels labour. And, accordingly, we have not met with a more instructive piece of information, than that the Independent Chapel in
* For a further explanation of this, see infra, Sect. IV.—Demonstration of the Erils of the Edinburgh System of seat-letting
North College Street should have one-third of its sittings free, and yet that these are the least occupied.* It is only a few months ago that we obtained the survey of a district, every house of which is within a stonethrow of this chapel. It consists of that part of the Cowgate, on its south side, which lies between the Horse Wynd and the College Wynd, and of the west side of the College Wynd. There are 262 individuals in this locality, of whom nine only are seat-holders in all places of worship, or one in twenty-nine of the population. Of these nine not one has rented a sitting among the Independents. But on being made to understand that there were so many free sittings in the Independent chapel so near to them, I conceived it possible that some may have availed themselves of such a tempting opportunity. I accordingly have looked anew over the report of this district, and find that of its seventy-four families, all of them, whether seat-holders or not, with the exception of eleven, profess that they belong to a particular denomination; and, accordingly, we are presented with families belonging to the Relief, and the Roman Catholics, and the Establishment, and the Episcopalians, and the Antiburghers, and the Seceders, and the Methodists, and lastly with one family of Independents, who, at the same time, have no seats taken in any chapel of their own persuasion, or anywhere else. They may or they may not be occupiers in the Independent chapel of College Street; but such a state of the population, in the immediate vicinity of so many churches and meeting-houses, is to me one of the most impressive proofs which can be given for the utter inefficacy, either of a voluntary system which refuses the parochial economy, or of an Establishment which has abandoned it, to provide for the Christian education of the families of the land.
7. We may now see what the proper field is in which the statistics, the only available statistics of the question, are to be gathered. Not, we have all along contended, by taking an inventory of the churches and their room, but by taking an inventory of the church-goers and their number. It is of no consequence to the population in the College Wynd to be told that there is enough of unoccupied space for them in the College Street Independent meeting-house. Nor are their families to be
See “The Church its own Enemy,” by Mr Adam Black, p. 43. I have since learned of this family, that none of them is either a church member of, or habitual attender in the Independent Chapel in North College Street, though one of the household states that he sometimes goes to it.
hopelessly and heartlessly abandoned, because of the bare existence and contiguity of a place of worship, whose vacant sittings only proclaim its own impotency for reclaiming the degenerate people at its door to the habits and the decencies of Christian observation. Neither do we stand acquitted of all further obligation to the families in the Cowgate, because of the nine churches within, or upon its limits; and altogether of doubly greater capacity than is enough for their accommodation. Amid all this profusion of sittings in the churches of this locality, we do not meet, in the houses of it, with 1 in 8 of their seat-holders. When told of so much apparent abundance along with so much real scarcity, the true philosopher will become all the keener in quest of a solution; and the true Christian philanthropist all the keener in quest of a remedy than before. They are the unintelligent and the heartless who will be satisfied,—the men void of intellect, or void of pity, who will cease to make further inquiries, and leave these wretched families to themselves.
8. On this subject there is a woful and wide-spread delusion, and the country seems altogether to have got upon a wrong scent. Even in parliament, the single question relates to the number of the people, and the amount of existent church-room for holding them; and if these two elements, when arranged in parallel columns, are found pretty nearly to quadrate with each other, the investigation will be held as closed; and that, too, in the face of a growing and greatly augmented heathenism all over the land. It is thus to be feared that the inquiry now set on foot,* will land in some precipitate, but withal most lame and impotent conclusion. Of what importance is it to know that fabrics with room enough exist, without seeking to know whether they be accompanied with right securities for their being replenished from the surrounding families? The question, the only question is, how are we to recover these families? and it is on this outer field that we are presented with the great arena on which the controversy between the Establishment and the Voluntary system ought to be settled. When told of a voluntary church, with half its sittings unoccupied, and of the territory around it, with seven-eighths of its people going nowhere -these two phenomena, so far from being irreconcilable, co-exist in perfect harmony, and reflect the utmost light and explanation on each other. The very reason why we behold no effect from
For Returns from all places in Scotland, on the motion of Mr. Wallace, respecting the amount of Church Accommodation in the Establishment and among the Dissenters.
the contiguity of the chapel on the habits of the householders, is that, in reference to them, the chapel is wholly non-effective. But this, though the very best reason why no good from this one expedient has yet been done to the families, is the very worst why no good, from another expedient, should be attempted in their favour. I should hold it a strange objection against some one way of benefiting a population, that some other way had been tried, and turned out to be abortive. The chapel whose minister never looks near the households of a particular locality, may have been of no service to it; but that is no reason why the church or chapel, whose great and specific business is to reclaim the occupiers of these households to the proprieties of religious observation, might not be the instrument of best and highest service to it that can be performed in behalf of any population. I know not whether I have been more revolted by the insensibility, or amazed by the utter absurdity of this voluntary argument. They summon one of their chapels into the argument against us; and, as if glorying in its impotency, tell us that enough, and more than enough, has been done for the families which are around it, seeing that there is plenty of room for them all in the seats of their half-unoccupied fabric. The reply to this is that our chapel is not to be as their chapel, but wholly distinct from theirs, because of a peculiarity annexed to it; and the peculiarity is this-that, whereas their minister is resorted to on the Sabbath by families from all quarters who seek after him if they will, the special business of our minister is to seek after the families of one quarter, and that, in the first instance, whether they they will or they will not–sure, at the same time to find, in the second, and in every succeeding instance, a warm and general welcome at almost every door. Because one kind of effort has been made, and been utterly fruitless of good to the outcast inhabitants of a given locality, is that a reason why not one other effort, though of a wholly different kind, shall be made to seek and to save them? Because a certain economy has been set up at the head of the Horse Wynd, and failed of benefit to the next-door families, must we, therefore, be restrained from setting up another, and an altogether distinct economy, at the foot of the Horse Wynd, whose main design shall be to bear, with the most powerful and salutary appliances which can be thought of, on one and all of that sorely neglected population? Surely the inference is not a logical or a fair one, that the agency which lays itself out for the good of a particular district, can be of no benefit to its residenters, because another agency has been of no such benefit, who never so laid themselves out, perhaps never thought of it. It is by the influence of a vicious syllogism on a perverse understanding, that the Horse Wynd chapel has been made to stand in the way of the Cowgate church. For ours would have been a wholly different sort of engine from theirs a general chapel, ours a territorial one.
9. By the way, we, the advocates for the extension of the church, or as we have been termed, patrons of the church-building scheme, have been reviled and ridiculed for our faith in mere architecture, as if on the strength of masonry and carpentry alone we expected to regenerate the population. Now truly, our faith is not in the architecture, but, under God, in the living agency which we propose to associate therewith. For the diffusion of grace and saving knowledge among the people, we no more count upon the house called a church, than we look for light from a candlestick; yet a well-placed candlestick and a well-placed church are both of importance notwithstanding, the one for physical, the other for moral and spiritual illumination.* But so little is it our rage to build new churches, that we would quite as readily, in fit and proper circumstances, buy old ones. And so little is it the new architecture which is the object of our faith, that our faith would be quite as strong in the old architecture, were we only at liberty to establish a strict local relationship between any chapel we might thus buy, and the district chalked out for it, and invest it with all the properties, first, second, and third, of a territorial church. Our faith is not in the sufficiency of any new and yet untried architecture of ours, which might hereafter spring into existence. But when our opponents object to our scheme the multitude of their chapels, and by a strange sort of Irishism think their objection all the stronger when they can further allege the number of their unlet sittings we might well retort that their faith truly is in the sufficiency of old architecture, which has been tried, and found wanting.
10. The true way of proceeding, then, is to ascertain the amount of this want, and in the discovery of its causes to make the discovery of its cure. We have already heard enough of pews occupied and unoccupied; let us now learn the number of the people, church-going and non-church-going. If we make out that in every place throughout the land where the people
* In the Book of Revelation, the extinction of a church is figured by the removal of a candlestick
have multiplied beyond the original provisions of our Establishment, there the majority of the surplus population, especially if of the labouring classes, go nowhere it is no comfort, no alleviation of this melancholy state, that the Dissenters should step in and tell us of the number of their chapels, and the great amount of their accommodation. This is only telling us of the greatness of their impotency, and that their whole system, indeed, is one magnificent abortion. If, notwithstanding their ten or twenty thousand alleged sittings, and which they have power to multiply at pleasure, we find that in every place where the boast is made there are ten or twenty thousand families in a state of heathenism that withstands all their efforts, and, so far from giving way, is gaining new strength and magnitude every year; the conclusion is irresistible, and, instead of being extenuated, is enhanced, and made all the more emphatic, when told of their great architectural performances–even the conclusion that a grievous incapacity exists somewhere; and they have clearly made it out against themselves that they are not the people from whom the remedy is to come. The truth is, and if we but advert to it, it will go far to nullify the effect of their deceptive representations, the statistics upon this subject have all been carried on in the wrong quarter, or at least they must be transferred to another quarter, ere we shall have obtained the essential materials of the question at issue. We have yet heard of nothing but seats and seatholders; but the information we need is of houses and householders. The thing to be ascertained is, whether we have yet arrived at a system of moral education that is comprehensive of all the people. The straight-forward way, surely, of going about this inquiry is to make entry and reckoning among the people themselves. To ascertain the state of the people, we should go among the people. It is now high time to transfer our survey from the church to the outer field; and instead of thinking that we have completed our investigation by taking account of the sittings in churches and meeting-houses, the far more practically important object is to take account of the number of sitters among the families that surround them. Example: In the Water of Leith and its annexed district, there are about 600 sittings wanted for the supply of its families, and this number may be taken to represent the ecclesiastical destitution of that locality-a destitution in consequence of which a population of very nearly 1200, as far as concerns the habits and opportunities of Christian education, are in a state of unprovidedness. Within a few hundred yards of them there was built, & few years ago, the large chapel of Stockbridge, belonging to the Establishment, with room for 1500 sitters; and this, it were natural to imagine, might have proved an important accommodation to the families in question. But the chapel is upheld by seat-rents; and drawing its hearers from all distances and directions, it but operates superficially, far and wide, over the town and suburbs at large; and so with a full congregation from the upper and middle classes, its influence is wholly unfelt by the lower orders, even of its own immediate vicinity. And accordingly, of the 140 sitters in the Water of Leith district, there are only seven who attend at Stockbridge. But over and above this, there has been raised still more recently a dissenting chapel, nearer by half the distance to the Water of Leith, and where it is understood that a goodly number of unoccupied seats is waiting to be looked after by the unprovided families. But beside that the seat-rents of the Dissenters, charged as they are with the maintenance of the clergyman and the expenses of their chapel, are higher than those of the Establishment ought to be, there is another most important element which is strangely overlooked in this whole argument; and that is the vis inertiæ, the sluggishness or obstinate indisposition of a people with whom the habit of church-going has fallen into desuetude. When told that nothing is necessary to be done, because of the amount of church-room which Dissenters have supplied, it seems the conception that we have but to summon places of worship into being, and then all men will flow into them. Why then did the unprovided families in the Water of Leith not look after the churchroom that is within a few stonethrows of their own habitations? Putting the high seat-rents out of sight, a very sufficient reason is, that before they will look after church-room, the minister who has that room to dispose of, must first look after them. They will in no other way be aroused from that inveterate apathy which now cleaves to them; and as if by a physical necessity, like that of gravitation, fixes them in a state of quiescence, which, unless by dint of far more vigorous appliances than the mere spectacle of an empty church or meeting-house in their vicinity, will remain unaltered and unalterable. It is not by an attractive, but by an aggressive influence that these people will ever be reclaimed; and it is only by the week-day assiduities of a clergyman, charged with a special territory, and confining himself within its limits, that such an influence can be brought effectually to bear upon them. Now this is what Dissenters fail, in the general, to do. They build, and overbuild, so as not only to meet the existing demand, but greatly to overpass it; and then tell us of their number of empty sittings, in the shape of an argument, that to do aught more for the accommodation of the people is quite unnecessary. In other words, the process is to stop when the demand stops. The amount of moral education to be provided for is to be limited, not by the necessities of the people, but by the desires of the people. When they cease to care for Christianity, we are to cease caring for them. Because the 140 church-goers in the Water of Leith have an abundance, nay a great superabundance of church-room, therefore we are acquitted of all farther obligation to the 600 who have seats for the taking, but won’t take them. Their taste and their demand for the ministrations of Christianity are now asleep; and the mere existence of vacant church-room in their neighbourhood is to be held as a sufficient reason for letting them alone. We should reckon it the noblest of all studies, because having for its object the greatest of all achievements, and for its principle the highest and holiest aim that ever inspired the heart of either philanthropist or patriot-the study of those peculiar tactics by which the stubborn apathy of every neglected population might best be assailed, and their now extinct affections for goodness be again awakened through the families. But no—all this must stand in abeyance till the Dissenters have got their pews filled; and so till that which letteth, even the formidable argument of their half-attended meeting-houses, is taken out of the way. Or, in other words, the population must be left to accumulate in neglected thousands, and their corruption to spread and deepen into greater inveteracy every year, because our friends the Voluntaries have calculated too sanguinely on the power of their own favonrite principle; and are now learning, to their own sad experience, that it is a possible thing to build more places of worship than they, all at once, can find a willingness in the people to fill them. But this willingness never comes of its own accord; nor need we look for its revival, but by the incessant appliance from without of such personal and household attentions to the people of a given district as the minister of a territorial establishment can best bring to bear upon its families. And must there be no such forthgoing among the dead, till they, somehow or other, of themselves come to life again? Or is it any reason for abstaining from this enterprise, that Dissenters can allege how many are the superfluous meeting-houses which they have unadvisedly built, and how much of superfluous carpentry is to be found within the walls of each of them? In the mighty aggregate of plebeian households far beneath the reach of their operation, which is very much confined in towns to the upper and middle strata of society, there exists a mine of immense capabilities upon which they never enter, and by the right working of which a vast addition might be made to the stock of national virtue, to the moral wealth of our land. Are we to forego this, I would ask, and satisfy ourselves, instead, with a “beggarly account of empty boxes;” and till this hopeless vacancy is filled, must every attempt to recall our people from the moral degradation into which they have fallen, be in the meantime suspended?
11. On the principles which we now urge, then, it will be found, in all our large towns more especially, that there exists an immense necessity for new churches; and, if not new in architecture, at least new in character, and more particularly in the local or territorial relation which they should hold in their several vicinities. The extent of this necessity is only to be ascertained by household surveys, in the results of which the great strength of our case lies. ‘Dissenters have blamed us because we speak only of our own Church Accommodation, and say nothing of theirs.* There is an obvious reason why
* In their commentary upon one of our Circulars, they seem not to have been aware of a previous one, issued months before, the object of which was to obtain the fullest information respecting the ecclesiastical state of the people of Scotland, inclusive of all that had been done both by the Church and by Dissenters, and also what was left undone by both. Instead of which communication, they have lighted upon another, possessing a very subordinate character, and designed for a special and temporary service; and on this they have bestowed their exclusive consideration. In virtue of this ludicrous mistake, they have been like men who try to estimate the character and design of a correspondence, from the examination of a single letter; and that not a full, and formal, and explicit letter sent to the party with whom the negotiation is held, but a private and incidental communication sent to one’s own friends, and between whom there is many a topic, the mention of which were but the idle repetition of a thing long and fully understood amongst them. Accordingly, we have been accused of wilful concealment of the truth, not because in any of our communications with Government we have suppressed the fact in one of our communications to the ministers of the Church of Scotland — and that too, not many weeks after we had, by a prior communication, asked them to inform us of the whole accommodation for public worship, both with themselves and among Dissenters in their respective parishes. I certainly have no recollection of the public mind having, in many quarters, been so grossly deceived into a total misunderstanding of any subject, as of the real character and design of our proceedings; and of such a hideous outcry, in consequence, having been raised for nothing.
we cannot speak so minutely and statistically of theirs as we can of our own; but the truth is, that one table containing the accommodation within the Establishment, and another table, containing the amount of seats taken by the people in all places of worship, of all denominations—these two tables, once they were completed, for every place in a state of real ecclesiastical destitution, would present us with all the attainable, and at the same time relevant statistics of the question. The second table would exhibit the amount of what had been done by the Establishment and Dissenters, and the fearful amount, in very many places, of what had been left undone. The first table would exhibit how much church-room the Establishment had at its command; and, if any of that room was still unoccupied, then by wresting it from the grasp of Town-Councils, with their high rents and indiscriminate seat-lettings, there might, by the restoration of a territorial character to our Town Churches, be so much of the deficiency exhibited in the second table provided for. The remainder can only be met by new territorial churches–whether this shall be accomplished by architecturally new erections, or by old meeting-houses turned into this new destination. Our great and terminating object is not to supplant the Dissenters, but to supply the outfield population whom neither they nor we have overtaken. It is on the magnitude of that population that our plea of necessity is founded. It ought to be acknowledged, with all thankfulness and respect, that in virtue of what Dissenters have done, the extent of this unprovided population is considerably less than what it otherwise would have been. I can truly say that, if I found the Dissenters able to occupy the whole ground that we had not entered on, I would not only never have stirred in this enterprise, but would have willingly given up every argument I have used, on the side of a national provision for the clergy, or of the endowment of churches by the state. It is on this, and this alone in fact, that our plea for an Establishment, and a sufficiently extended one, is founded-on the moral and spiritual desolation of all remoter hamlets and villages in large country parishes, on the outcast thousands and tens of thousands in large towns–only to be assailed by the territorial methods of an Establishment, and by the aggressive forces which belong to it.
12. Detach from a place of worship any one of the three properties which are essential to its being a territorial church, and you may thereby reduce the families of a whole neighbourhood to a state of extreme ecclesiastical destitution as the population of Amisdale in Glenelg, because, though they have a parish church, they have not a church near enough; and the population of the Grassmarket in Edinburgh, because, though they have a parish church, its seat-rents are not low enough; and the population of the Cowgate, because, though they have a chapel in their vicinity, with a large proportion of free sittings, they have not the minister of that chapel for their pastoral superintendent. Each property, if our scheme is to be carried into effect, will be a separate contribution from three several quarters. The rightly placed church will be built, or bought from the funds raised by subscription. The low seat-rents will be the fruit of a small endowment provided by the Government, enabling the minister to live without bearing hard on the means of his hearers. The small enough parish will be chalked out by the presbytery-to which we must add the conscientious diligence of the minister, stimulated by the vigilant guardianship of his ecclesiastical superiors, who shall have assigned to him the peculiar task of reclaiming a waste and long-neglected territory, and who should require at his hand the proper and peculiar activity suited for such an undertaking. This, in fact, is the work of a devoted missionary; and we abjure all faith, even in the goodliest and best-devised economy which can possibly be instituted, unless wielded by the power and directed by the piety of living men. And to ascend one step higher in this progression of cause and effect, we as utterly despair of any harvest from all our terrestrial arrangements as we should of a prosperous return from the most skilful husbandry in the absence of showers and of sunshine-if the Spirit of God shall be withheld, and living water from the sanctuary above is not to descend upon us. Let us not forget that, however indispensable the things for which we plead, they are, after all, but “the outward things of the house of God,”* most important no doubt, as being the aqueducts for a diffusive and general conveyance of spiritual blessings; yet a vain and useless parade, if the grace only given to those who ask it, shall not light upon our tabernacles. With all our value for the mechanism of a well-ordered church, we must remember that its great master-springs are in the hands of Him who casteth down the imaginations of the confident, and delights in lending Himself to the supplications of the ever glory may accrue from the wisdom of its rulers, it is in its men of faith and of prayer that the main strength of our Establishment lies.
13. We now feel ourselves exempted from the necessity of any further notice of the Statement issued by the Central Board of Dissenters. Of their wish to fasten the charge of dishonesty on ourselves, we say not one word. Neither shall we try, what indeed we should feel a difficult task, the adequate expression of our outraged feelings at the violence done by them to all common and all Christian humanity, in their wretched attempt to cut down the supply of religious instructors for the poor, and so utterly to traverse the spirit of our merciful Saviour’s behest,– “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest that he would send forth more labourers unto the harvest.”* Their grotesque calculations do not need to be grappled with in detail, for they proceed throughout on a notion that is fundamentally erroneous, and fatal to their whole reasoning. They seem to have imagined that what we want is a sort of hap-liazard and simultaneous extension of our Church, whereby it was suddenly to be enlarged to nearly double the extent of its present establishment, -and this with a sort of blind impetuosity that regarded not in every special instance the calls and the claims on which every distinct application was founded. We expect no endowment for any one church, without the full and satisfying demonstration in that, and every other individual case, of the real and practical necessity which exists for such a provision. It is not by simultaneous by successive additions, that we desire to meet the deficiencies of our Establishment; and we most willingly concede it to our jealous adversaries, that, if they can demonstrate of any given locality in whose behalf the application is preferred, that they have done full justice to that surplus population whom the Establishment in its present stinted condition is not able to overtake, then, in reference to that locality, they shall have stripped us of our plea. It is not by bewildering generalities that this
* On both the topics to which we have now adverted, see Dr. Macfarlan’s Letter to the people of Scotland, and a most eloquent utterance of just and noble Indignancy in Mr. Clason’s first Letter to Bailie M’Laren. I take the opportunity also of recommending to general perusal two anonymous pamphlets; the one of them entitled, “Exposure of the False Principles in the Statement of the Central Board,” clear, convincing, and dispassionate; the other, “The Case of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland,” against that statement. Why did the author of the last-mentioned able and conclusive reasoning not give his influential name to a publication that does him so much honour?
controversy is to be determined, but by coming to close quarters in particular instances. We shall want a church for Lybster in Caithness; will the Dissenters tell us what they have done there to nullify our application; or, should government hold themselves acquitted of this populous village by the proofs which have been exhibited of a surplus accommodation a hundred miles off from them? We urgently require a low-rented church at Greenside, of St. Andrew’s parish in Edinburgh. Is it enough to tell us of the costly and unlet seats in its Established place of worship, or even of the universally free sittings in a Baptist chapel within the district, when, as a proof that neither the one nor the other doth avail the families, we find, of the vast majority, that these Sabbath sanctuaries are unvisited, and almost unknown by them?In the Cowgate of Edinburgh alone, we can point to thousands who never enter the house of God; and must we be thwarted there too, in our attempts to provide a territorial church for them, because of the mockery of relief held out by nine useless elevations which already exist in their neighbourhood, we mean useless to these unreached families, or rather so many moral nuisances in their way, when converted, as they are, into hostile arguments against the only effectual system for their Christian education? It is thus, by going piecemeal to work, that we shall attempt to make out a special provision for each case of special but thoroughly ascertained necessity; and we hope it will quiet the alarms and soften the resistance of our adversaries, when made to understand by how very gradual, how very laborious, how very expensive a process, not to the government who shall partially endow, but to ourselves who shall wholly build, the necessary churches, -we expect to arrive, through much of calumny and opposition, and by dint of many sacrifices, at the consummation of our wishes.
14. It will perhaps make this matter still clearer, if I now present the literal reply, written by myself, to an official member of the late Government, who inquired at me, whether the proposed extension for the Church of Scotland should be a gradual or an immediate one.” The following are my reasons for bolding it more eligible that the Church shall be extended by a gradual, rather than by the immediate erection and endowment of a certain definite and specified number of places of worship(1.) It allows time for a deliberate and well-weighed comparison of the different applications which will be made from all parts of the country, and better secures the selection of the fittest places for a new church. (2.) It gives better security for the deficiencies of the Establishment being at length fully repaired –whereas the enactment of a definite number will fall greatly short of the work, as in the example of the late government churches for the Highlands, which, though of immense benefit pro tanto, and as far as they go, form so small a proportion to the whole necessities of the case, as to have turned out a very partial and inadequate remedy. (3.) It allows time for a preparation, the necessity of which is apt to be overlooked by those who take a superficial or sanguine view of the whole subject. It is a great mistake to imagine, that, on the erection of a new church and the appointment of its minister, in the midst of many thousands of people who at present go nowhere, there will be a precipitate rush to fill the place which has thus been provided for them. The truth is, that the work of reclaiming such an exile and outlandish population to the habit of church-going, is a work of great sluggishness; and not to be accomplished but at the expense of much labour and devotedness on the part of a faithful ecclesiastic, who must give himself, and with the spirit of an old apostle or a modern missionary, to the business of going forth among the families, and, by his week-day attentions to them, creating such a demand and desire among them as may at length lead to their Sabbath attendance upon him. The truth is, I should feel apprehensive that if the material apparatus of new churches were greatly to outrun such a preparation, we should be so exposed to the mortifying spectacle of desolate and empty pews, as might stamp a mockery upon the whole enterprise. There is much the same work to be gone through, in our towns especially, that has to be gone through on the first conversion of a pagan land to Christianity-where there must be a great missionary work ere there can be an establishment at all; and so there must be such a work among our surplus population, by means of what may be termed a Great Home Mission, ere we shall be able to obtain a footing among them for those new churches, by which we propose to extend the establishment that already exists. This Home Mission has begun and is proceeding piecemeal with its operations in various parts of the country, generally under the cognisance and with the consent of the parish clergyman, in cities and large country parishes. I could name between fifty and a hundred such that might be in readiness for new erections in the course of a few months. I have one under my own eye that commenced at Martinmas 1833, and is now in full readiness. The process, though a most essential, would, with the encouragement of government aid in reserve, be a very rapid one; so that I should not despair of being ripe for at least a hundred new erections in three years, of double that number in less than ten years, and perhaps of the whole being completed in the course of twenty or thirty years at farthest.” Example:–They who are acquainted with the topography of Edinburgh, will follow my description of the limits which bound a particular locality in St Cuthbert’s, that, I believe, has not yet been assigned to a chapel, and would, I think, do admirably for a new parish—having South College Street and Lothian Street for its northern boundary; and for its east and west boundaries Nicolson and Bristo Streets; and these latter boundaries, carried as far south as when connected at their southern extremities, might enclose a population of certainly not more than 3000, and coming as nearly down to 2000 as possible. We believe that this parish would include no less than four places of worship, those of College Street Relief, Bristo Street and Potterrow United Secession, and the Methodist Chapel in Nicolson Square, —any one of which would do exceedingly well for the parish church, could we only obtain the consent of its minister to become the parish clergyman. But in default of this, there was an offer made to me lately of the Brighton Street Chapel, which is now for sale, and is exceedingly well-placed for the parish as we have now designed it—but which offer I declined. My reasons for this will illustrate the very gradual and sure way in which we propose going to work. In the first place, the ecclesiastical state of that parish has not yet been surveyed—though I have the strong apprehension, that, notwithstanding the four chapels now specified within its limits, and the able ministers who serve in them, a vast majority of the people who ought to be churchgoers, are neither the members of any Christian community, nor yet the regular attendants upon any place of worship. But if we found it otherwise, and particularly that the meeting-houses which already exist in that neighbourhood had engrossed a large proportion of the families, we should certainly prefer a more destitute locality, for the enterprise of a territorial erection in the midst of it. But what is more, we have not only not surveyed, but we have not yet entered even on the rudimental cultivation of that district. I am not aware of any parish missionaries being at work in that quarter; and, at all events, I should not hold it wise to rush precipitately on the formation of a parish church, till a preaching station, upheld by household assiduities, had been tried and found to be successful. Such a preaching station is the germ of the future church, as the missionary is of the future clergyman; but not till the germ bad so far germinated, would we venture on a full parochial apparatus for any locality whatever. We should not like to hazard the money of our subscribers on an uncertain enterprise; and this careful, this studied protection of them, from the expense of useless architecture, is the sure guarantee of a like protection to government from the expense of any useless endowment. I trust every fair and candid reader will acknowledge that in proceeding on such grounds as these, we discover no hostile feeling whatever to other denominations. Our single object is not to supplant the dissenters, but to supply the destitute; and never shall we intrude with rash footsteps on any locality, where the Establishment on the one hand, and the evangelical Dissenters of Scotland on the other, are found to have provided efficiently and fully betwixt them for the religious instruction of its people.
15. If, instead of a short statement, my time had permitted a full one of the question now treated, there are certain other topics which I should have been glad to discuss, but which at present I must postpone. Let me briefly announce one of these, the one on which I most regret that I cannot now expatiate. We are reproached for soliciting the aid of Government to uphold the peculiarities of a sect; this is not our object. We solicit the aid of Government to carry a scheme into effect for the Christian education of now unprovided thousands, whom neither we nor all the sectaries of Scotland have at present the means of overtaking; and should we be successful, I venture to say, that the peculiarities of the Church of Scotland will not constitute & millionth part of the education consequently given. The truth is, there is not the difference of a hair’s-breadth between the theology of the Scottish Church, and that of nine-tenths of the Dissenters in Scotland. What we should teach is just what themselves would allow to be the Christian religion; and, instead of us petitioning Government for the support of our sectarianism, the true state of the case is, that they are preventing Government from a measure of the highest patriotism, by thrusting forward their sectarianism in the way of those territorial churches without which the general instruction of the working classes never bas been overtaken, and never will. How much happier and healthier a process, I ask, would it be, if, on Government ordaining a prospective endowment, the Dissenting ministers would harmonise with a reforming Church, becoming every day more accessible and more willing to receive them? There is room in the exigencies of our increased population for many more churches than all their meeting-houses could afford, for many more parishes than all their pastors could occupy. What a beautiful and noble result, were this wretched squabble of voluntaryism terminated; and the combatants, dropping their peculiarities, were to join their forces in one grand movement against the irreligion and wickedness of the people. We shall not despair of such a consummation. The asperities of that warfare which now rages on every side of us are surely not to last for ever. Peace and charity, let us hope, will in time be lords of the ascendant; and the storm which now darkens and disturbs our moral atmosphere, we trust shall purify, but not destroy.