Imagens da página

taken, as it were, under the wing of the government, the legislature would have been exceedingly culpable. But this theory fails in practice. In many cases the guardians have not exercised their power in this particular, and the poorhouses are sadly deficient in religious instruction. If it be enquired why are not chaplains provided in such cases, the following replies might be given.

First, it may, without injustice, be concluded, that some guardians are not really concerned for the spiritual interests of their charge. We have not yet arrived at that happy period, when a respectable station in society shall be inseparable from the possession of real piety. Estimable as we may presume the guardians to be in their public character and private relations, we feel assured there are some who think religion of little importance, and therefore are not disposed to increase the expences of the system they manage, by the payment of clergymen.

Secondly, the predominance of one party which is sanctioned by the laws, forms a reason why some are unwilling to proceed to the election of a chaplain. We are not now going to give any opinion on this motive, but merely to state its existence. It does exist, and will continue to do so, while party-spirit prevails. The feeling of the class now under notice does not belong to any one sect, but to all. If one denomination is exalted, and another depressed, the latter will not willingly aid the further aggrandizement of the former. Thus the subject is kept in abeyance; one evil produces another, and the very institution of a religious

establishment operates to keep religious knowledge from the people.

Thirdly, there are men of all denominations, who wish above all things to promote the religious improvement of the poor. While they may feel a natural fondness for their own peculiar views, they are willing to throw them into the shade, for the promotion of general benefit. To such persons, whether churchmen or dissenters, the appointment of a chaplain would give satisfaction; to the former as a matter of course; to the latter from a sincere wish to benefit the poor in the most important respect. Yet even these hesitate in exercising the power with which they are entrusted, for the following reason;-they fear that a man really solicitous for the cure of souls would not bo-clocied Knowing how rarely in the established church, clergymen apply themselves to the self-denying duties of pastors, they apprehend that they may waste the funds with which they are entrusted by the appointment of a mere hireling; that a chaplain of this character, by deterring other efforts of benevolence, may do more harm than good; that the poorhouse may exemplify the state of things alluded to in the verse,

"The hungry sheep look up, but are not fed.” That such apprehensions are not unfounded, who will deny? Let it be intimated hy any board of guardians, that a chaplain is wanted, and who will apply? Perhaps the clergyman of the parish, who already may be notorious for neglect


of his charge; who is never found in the humble walks of afflicted poverty, and never kneels

“Beside the bed where parting life is laid.” Perhaps the incumbent of some distant village, whose visits must necessarily be “few and far between.” And if such parties offer themselves, the chance of their being rejected is small indeed. A majority of votes decides the case, and the poor are bound to one who cares but little for their happiness. Once elected, such a person cannot be displaced. This should be borne in mind. Thus a fear of lending themselves to the injury of the poor, by placing over them an improper person, leads many guardians to put the question out of sight altogether. ..

Having offered these observations on the cause of the non-appointment of chaplains, we beg leave to suggest what should be done, to prevent that total neglect with which the poorhouses, in some cases, are threatened. . We say nothing on the voluntary and gratuitous visits of different ministers of religion, since nothing of this kind will be found to work effectively. Several clergymen may engage, indeed, to care for the poor in rotation, but their numerous duties elsewhere would often render this impossible. The plan of paying several ministers to attend would work well, by rendering denominational jealousy inadmissible; but the law, we believe, will not allow this ; paid ministers, to officiate under the poor law system, must be of the established church. It remains, then, to consider how the evils to be apprehended by the pious may be avoided, and chaplains of indisputable qualifications secured.

Let those who are conscious of the vast importance of securing a minister of pastoral and religious habits, use all their influence with their colleagues to that end. Let no false delicacy prevent them from pressing upon the attention of those who differ from them, the utter vanity of appointing one who will not attend to the poor for their own sake. If a house-surgeon were to be chosen, all would be anxious to select one who loved his profession; who would be attracted, rather than repelled, by the most painful and loathsome diseases; whose attachment to science would bring him at any hour to his patients, and cause him to use his utmost efforts for their cure. Why should not these obvious principles be applied in the choice of one, whose office is infinitely more interesting ? Why should not the absurdity at once be seen, of placing a minister over a poorhouse, who, having no love to his work, would attend to it as little as possible ? Reasoning like this is so consonant with the dictates of common sense, that if one guardian only should diligently employ it with candour and respect, conviction would often follow. Let it be asked, What is a chaplain for ? and a proper election will take place. He is not wanted merely to read a form of prayer at set times, or to preach occasionally; he has to do with the ignorant and the vicious; with men of long habits of irreligion, every one of whom he is to endeavour to make “sober, righteous, and godly.” He is to watch over the sick and the dying; to train the young to habits of virtue ; in short, to perform those duties in the poorhouse which devolve upon him in his parish.

In some cases it would be of advantage, if guardians, solicitous to obtain a proper chaplain, were to enquire for one of the requisite qualifications, in private, and then introduce him to the board, as a candidate. There are men in the established church who, being desirous themselves of extending an evangelical ministry, would be able to recommend such a person. Rectors, and vicars, and curates, living on the spot, or near it, might be offended with the introduction of a stranger, but that must be no impediment. If their duties permit them to undertake the office in question, and they are qualified with humility, patience, and zeal, sufficient for its effective discharge, let them be chosen; if not, their feelings must not be consulted, the proper cure of souls being of more importance than attention to fictitious politeness and courtesy.

It must be evident that these remarks have one object in view, the welfare of the inmates of the poorhouse. We are dissenters, and therefore, if we recommend the choice of a chaplain, we cannot be accused of bigotry or interested motives. That man must be far advanced in selfishness, indeed, who could leave souls neglected because he was not allowed to care for them. Such conduct in churchmen or dissenters, ought to be met with honest indignation by all good men; it is base; it is, in fact, to bind man's best interests with the fetters of prejudice, and consign them to the dark caverns of party-spirit and intolerance.

« AnteriorContinuar »