Page images
PDF
EPUB

It is computed that there are, in England and Wales, 28,290* churches and chapels, distributed amongst the various sects as follows :

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

Increase

per cent.

From the above table, it appears that the places of worship belonging to Protestants are 97.89 per cent., and those belonging to Roman Catholics 2·11 per cent. of the whole number; and that of the former a fraction more than half (viz. 50-55) belong to the Established Church, the rest to Protestant Dissenters.

Mr. Edgell notices it as a gratifying fact, that among Christians of every denomination the number of places of worship has considerably increased during the last quarter of a century. The ratios of their increase will be seen by the following table, in which also it will be noticed with considerable pleasure by our readers that the Dissenting denominations have in chapel-building far outstripped their favoured and powerful rival:

In 1831, the Established Church had 11,825 churches

and chapels ; it has now 14,000; showing an in-
crease of

2,175 18:39
In 1831, the Independents had 1,840 chapels ; they
have now 2,572 ; showing in increase of .

732 39.78
In 1831, the Baptists had 1,201 chapels; they have
now 1,943; showing an increase of

742 61.77
In 1831, the various bodies of Methodists had 3,911;

they have now 7,908 ; showing an increase of . 3,997 102.19
Of the Roman Catholic chapels, the number in 1831

is not exactly known; they were in 1825, 375;
they are now 597 ; showing an increase (in 26
years) of

222 59.20 The conclusive and powerful demonstration which the above statistics

These are the statistics for 1850, since which the number of places of worship for all denominations has increased, but much in the proportion given in the text.

.

[ocr errors]

afford of the practical efficiency of the voluntary principle, should not be passed unnoticed. They prove that during the last twenty years, in proportion to the previous relative strength of the several denominations to the Established Church, the Congregationalists have doubled the efforts of the Establishment, the Baptists and Roman Catholics each more than trebled them, while the Methodist bodies have done nearly five times as much more in providing for the spiritual wants of the kingdom !

The increase of the places of worship amongst the Presbyterians, Unitarians, Quakers, and other minor sects, cannot be given, because the statistics are wanting in most of them previous to 1840. But as they have all much increased since the last-mentioned date, we cannot, says Mr. Edgell, err in assigning to them the same average rate of increase which prevails among other Protestants, which is as follows:

Increase of Protestant churches and chapels

during 20 years, from 1831 to 1851 (exclusive
of minor sects)

7,646, or 40•7 per cent.
Increase of Roman Catholic chapels in 26
years, from 1825 to 1851

222, or 59.20 Number of Protestant places of worship which

have been built since 1831, as compared with
the Roman Catholic places of worship which
have been built since 1826

34 to 1 This table is calculated further to suppress the unfounded fear that has lately been indulged in, concerning the increase of Romanism in Great Britain. We called attention to this subject in our last number, and are glad to find the opinions we then expressed so remarkably and fully borne out.

Mr. Edgell, however, further remarks, that “besides the abovementioned churches and chapels, which, as a matter of course, are exclusively devoted to purposes of Christian worship, it is computed by Mr. Baines that there are 7,474 'stations,' that is to say, schools or hired rooms, in which prayer-meetings are held and the gospel is preached by Evangelical Dissenters. The grounds for this computation, as well as for most of the figures contained in the first of the foregoing tables, may be seen in his evidence before the Church-rate Commission of 1851.

• It must also be mentioned, that, of late years, the practice has become common for clergymen of the Church of England to read and explain the Scriptures, and to join in prayer with their parishioners, on certain evenings of each week, at school-rooms, or, still more frequently, at cottages situated in hamlets remote from the parish church. But no statistics exist on which to ground even a conjecture as to the number of these services.'

Brief Meditations,

OUR WILL AND GOD'S OVERSIGHT. It is most important that we should know and feel that we are left in much to our own free will, for thereby great light will be thrown on our condition and history. We must not be relieved from every difficulty, nor sheltered from every rough wind of adversity. The heavenly Father will have Christian manliness and courage in his children. He places them, therefore, in the midst of hard, rough work, and makes the labouring exercise of strength, that seems too weak for our occasions, to be for the birth of higher strength that shall serve in coming trials. And himself is ever by, watching even when silent. It cannot be, then, that any rightly intended effort shall prove unavailing for good to him who puts it forth. What we do honestly may be done unwisely, and may fail to accomplish our immediate end, yet it cannot be injurious to us in the issue. Often will the thoughtful man, as he falls into error or brings on himself suffering through his own ignorance, say within him—Why is it thus ? Oh, that God would give me more light. Yet God does not neglect him. Neither is his case overlooked nor his cry disregarded. God has intentionally thus left him in part to himself; it is his plan so to do. It is because such is his plan that sometimes our requirements may be unreasonable. God will not keep us from mistakes. He will not speedily free us from our natural defects. He teaches us by our mistakes, and by means of our defects leads us watchfully forward. He will make our mistakes subservient to our progress, and will enable us by persevering effort so to control and regulate our nature that defect shall have its influence limited. God will deal generously with us; he has subjected us to infirmity, and he knoweth our infirmities. He does not expect wisdom from the foolish nor strength from the weak. If we once get into our souls a deep and abiding impression that he has such a continual fatherly regard for us that he ever has our welfare in view, and will make our errors instrumental to our knowledge, our sufferings to our joy and

ncement, we shall not repine at being liable to error and exposed to pain. God has put us into this world not only that he may try us, but that we, in a certain true sense, may try him. He has promised final success to the persevering, and if we manfully use the tools and strength he has given, we shall have successes even here that, in the midst of discouragements and failures, will yet sustain our faith in God as one whom we have tried. Two kinds of confidence we need—a right confidence in prayer and a right confidence in self. There should be much specificness in prayer, yet may too large a proportion of our prayer be specific. Our prayer should sustain in us a wide general faith in God's good and wise providence. Praying for a certain thing which we do greatly and rightly desire we may yet fail to obtain. But praying for the blessing of God with calm, steady trust, we shall certainly have it. Our daily work and action, if honest and conscientious, will prepare us for future circumstances in which God shall peculiarly manifest his fatherly regard for us. We need again a right confidence in self, a confidence in self, that is, because of what God will enable self to do. As a man advances in an honest Christian course, he finds the providential world, if we may so speak, filled with a multitude of hitherto unknown, because unneeded, helps. He thus comes to have a humble self-reliance. The highest examples of self-reliance may be and should be also the highest examples of humility, for in proportion as a good man comes to perceive what he is himself capable of doing, does he come to understand that this his power results from the nature of that God-devised system of things in which he lives, and the adaptation of his nature to that. Thus we do truly work, but it is in God's world and by God's help; he is ever over us, we are his children ; then in failure we may be hopeful, in success humble, and at all times trustful.

INFIRMITY. Sorrow and evil are not always traceable directly to sin, but often spring rather from infirmity. Now the Christian doctrine of redemption meets the strong sense of deficiency and weakness there is in man, as well as his consciousness of actual guilt. Christianity is for man helpless with his noblest aspirations as well as for man with power to do but a depraved and misdirected will. In the Christian, the man whose will® is renewed, there is often an intense yearning to be spiritually pure and strong, joined with a consciousness of weakness and defilement, that are the occasion of personal sin, but not, or at least not wholly, its result. Christianity meets this condition of mind, and offers hope and aid to those who, because of their integrity, most painfully feel their weakness. Now, peculiar natural character will give specificness to a man's sins. His infirmities being peculiar, and his siņs being closely connected with them, other men will very probably treat him as the indulged what he is anxiously endeavouring to control, and he is himself in danger of thinking he does all he can to restrain a certain tendency of his nature, when, in fact, he has never yet put forth his highest efforts. No man is free from some sort of natural defect-and a deficiency or excess in an original power of the nature, will make its influence very remarkably felt in circumstances and modes of action of a widely different kind. Now, a Christian will be more sensible than another man how penetrating and comprehensive such an influence is. True, he will be less a slave, but then he will more deeply feel the bitterness of slavery. He will positively get loosened from the larger cords of his bondage, but he will discover that there are innumerable smaller ones which must still embarrass and entangle him. That Christian, who by divine grace has been freed from a slavery, and has conquered sin of any special kind, has acquired a new power of doing good to others, and so a new obligation rests on him. The conflict with evil is very various, the weapons manifold, and the discipline needed for different kinds of warfare peculiar; and so God often compasses a man with infirmity, to prepare him for giving to his brethren a particular kind of

a

strength. They who have controlled an infirmity, and they who were originally free, they who have conquered a sin, and they who were never under its power, have each their allotted spiritual work. He who possesses by nature a calm and cheerful temper, will sometimes seem to transform all he touches-leaden moroseness and iron harshness will change into golden gaiety and gentleness. He, again, who has conquered an irritable and hasty spirit, possesses an influence whereby he may stimulate and encourage others to acquire the like self-control. Often it is, as if from the man morally healed there went forth a 'virtue' able to cure the disease of which he has been sick; whilst-at least under some circumstances-it seems that those in whom evils are not, and have not been, do more to indirectly prevent the existence and growth of these evils, than to cure them. All Christian men may in their measure be very variously engaged in both these great works-prevention and cure ; for as natural defects are various, so are natural excellences, and he who has evil within him to restrain and control, has also good to develop and cultivate. The restraining of the evil will furnish him with difficult exercises, and the strength he so gains' will impart power and dignity to the good. If a man's self-discipline be thoroughly Christian, he will be able to aid his brethren by his own experience enabling him

to know them better, and teaching him to judge them more kindly. He has struggled, and men have not known the bitterness of the struggle—their silence or wrong judgments, or, perhaps, condemnatory words, have been to him as a cup of gall—but he will give no such cup to another. He will refresh him with a draught from that streaming fountain of Christian hope which has arisen within him—a fountain which has seemed ever to flow in new abundance after he has tasted the cup of gall. When he knows that a brother is “ weak' in anything, as it is significantly said, he will not expect from him in that thing as if he were strong. He will consider a brother in temptation as a feeble man in a great wind, and he will seek to guide him to some Christian enclosure, where

be sheltered. Every man has a moral history, and will at every stage have around him some who have passed that stage, and others who have not yet arrived thereat. He will still need that to be done for him which he is himself required to do for others. But if others fail him in the candour and assistance he needs; at least, let him do his own part. Let him not forget what he was, and what he needed others to be to him, at bygone stages of his journey. Poor men who become rich sometimes forget the heart of the poor, their sorrows and their struggles-so let it not be with sinful men who become numbered with the excellent of the earth. We may come to wonder at habits in others, which were once our own, and quite as sinful and blemishing in ourselves as in them. But let us make it a rule not only to do as we would be done by, to treat others in their infirmities as we would ourselves be treated in our own, but also to do to others as we would have been done by. For this purpose, we must often cast a recollective glance over our history We may also profitably remember that he who helps another onward, does himself also take a new step in advance. But let us consider our Saviour; he became our brother,

he may

« PreviousContinue »