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Title: Infant Schools and Dissenters - A Vindication of "a letter of affectionate remonstrance," &c.
Author: Alexander, John L.
Language: English
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Transcribed from the 1836 J. Fletcher edition by David Price.



                      INFANT SCHOOLS AND DISSENTERS.


                                * * * * *

                              A VINDICATION

                                    OF

               “A LETTER OF AFFECTIONATE REMONSTRANCE,” &c.

                                * * * * *

                                   FROM

          THE MISTAKES RESPECTING IT MADE BY WILLIAM GEARY, ESQ.
   AND FROM THE MISREPRESENTATIONS OF IT MADE BY THE REV. JOHN PEROWNE,
               RECTOR OF ST. JOHN’S MADDERMARKET, IN THEIR
                          RESPECTIVE PAMPHLETS.

                                * * * * *

                            BY JOHN ALEXANDER,
               MINISTER OF PRINCE’S STREET CHAPEL, NORWICH.

                                * * * * *

                                 NORWICH:
                   SOLD BY J. FLETCHER; JARROLD & SONS;
                        AND THE OTHER BOOKSELLERS.
                        JACKSON & WALFORD, LONDON.

                                  1836.



PREFACE.


THE following Vindication was written during the week in which the Rev.
John Perowne’s “Observations” appeared; and the publication of it has
been hitherto delayed, partly from an unwillingness to pursue the subject
of my “Letter” any farther, and partly from a determination not to
publish till a fair opportunity had been given to obtain subscribers to
the New Infant School Society.  In replying to Mr. Geary it was
impossible to write with any other impression than that I was answering a
gentleman and a Christian; and I hope that such an impression is
manifested in my pages.  And though Mr. Perowne has chosen to make my
“Letter” on Infant Schools the pretext for a rude and personal attack, as
well as for insulting the whole body of Dissenters, I have nevertheless
endeavoured to treat him with some degree of forbearance, and have in
many instances chastised him with whips only, when scorpions were at
hand.  The great questions at issue between Churchmen and Dissenters
never can be settled by slander and abuse.  Mr. Perowne’s pamphlet
therefore must be an utter failure; and I hope that all who have read it,
or who may read this, will retire from them both, diligently and devoutly
to study the New Testament, as the only standard of Christian faith, and
of Ecclesiastical government.

_Norwich_, _June_ 6_th_, 1836.



A VINDICATION, &c.


WHEN I had read the pamphlet, published by my esteemed friend Mr. Geary,
in reply to my “Letter,” it appeared to me that the facts, relative to
the proposed Infant School Society, were sufficiently before the public;
and, therefore, I determined to send him a few explanatory remarks in
writing, rather than to make any reply through the medium of the press.
Having been induced to alter my determination, I respectfully submit to
Mr. Geary’s consideration, the following brief observations.

Before the examination of the Infant Schools took place in St. Andrew’s
Hall, the public were informed, by the newspapers, that it had been
determined on, at a meeting held in the Guildhall, to which none but
members of the Establishment were invited.  William Moore, Esq. was in
the chair, and the following resolution was passed:—“Resolved, that the
system of Infant Education might be beneficially extended in this city;
and, with a view of prominently bringing forward its advantages, _that
there should be an examination of the children now receiving instruction
in the Infant Schools of this city_.”  The meeting which adopted that
resolution, appeared to me to originate and to authorize the examination
of the schools—and, whatever private understanding there might be with
Mr. Wilderspin, all that the public knew was what the resolution stated;
and Mr. Wilderspin appeared to us, not as accomplishing “his own
speculation,” but as the agent, employed by the meeting, to carry its
resolution into effect.  I think, therefore, that what I have stated, in
the eighth and ninth pages of my “Letter,” is fully borne out by all the
facts of the case.

I said nothing in my “Letter” to intimate that the children of Dissenters
would be excluded from the proposed schools.  My explanation of the
“Advertisement” which occasioned the “Letter” was this: “I understand it
to mean, that the members of no other Christian church shall be allowed
to participate with you _in the formation of the society_, _or in its
committee_, _or in its operations_.”  If, however, I had expressed a fear
that the church catechism might be introduced, or that some arrangement
might be made which would prevent Dissenters from sending their children
to the schools, the speeches at the public meeting, and Mr. Geary’s
pamphlet, satisfactorily negative such an apprehension.  All parties have
united in declaring that _the schools will be open to all classes_, and
that there will be no rules nor formulas against which Dissenters can
object.  At the public meeting, as reported in the newspapers, the Dean
expressly stated, that “they had no desire to exclude the children of any
persons of whatever religion, because _the children would not be
instructed in any points that any person might not learn_; as they would
be taught to worship and adore God, to know the merits of our Saviour, to
fear God and honour the King, and to live in peace and unity with one
another.  Their rules, said he, would be _open to persons of all
denominations_, who would have the opportunity of sending their children,
if they accorded with those rules.”  Mr. G. Seppings “stated that the
school would be open to the children of persons of _all denominations_,
who might choose to send them.”  In full accordance with these decisive
statements, Mr. Geary says, “I cannot help again recurring to a mistake
into which my reverend friend has fallen, and which is throughout
implied, in regard to the exclusion of the children of dissent.  He may
rest assured, that nothing is decided with respect to the discipline of
the schools, which can possibly be held to be an impediment with any
conscientious Dissenter who desires to place his child there:—no impeding
tests or testimonials on entering the school—no offensive rituals when
there.”  And in another part of his pamphlet he declares, “I have seen
the progress of the society in embryo, first, last, midst, and throughout
all, without witnessing any symptoms of such a spirit.  Should it appear,
I am prepared to contend with it hand to hand—foot to foot; and, should
it unhappily prevail, I should feel bound to quit the society.”  The
speeches at the public meeting are, however, a sufficient guarantee that
no such spirit will “unhappily prevail;” and I “rest assured,” that, so
far as the schools are concerned, they will be as comprehensive as those
which already exist, and to which the children of Churchmen and
Dissenters are admitted on equal terms.  I deeply regret, however, that
my interpretation of the “Advertisement” has unfortunately proved true,
and that, though the children of Dissenters are to be admitted into the
schools, Dissenters themselves are, quite unnecessarily I think, excluded
from the committee of the society, and from all its operations.

The public meeting, at which the preceding speeches were delivered, was
distinguished by the expression of many liberal and Christian sentiments;
and those of us who were excluded from it, were in no small degree
gratified in learning, from the public papers, that several of the
speakers expressed themselves so decidedly in favour of the liberal
system advocated in my “Letter,” and that they regretted that
circumstances constrained them to unite with the present exclusive
system.  “Mr. Bignold said _he had not been in favour of any exclusive
views_; and if it had been thought right to establish a general society,
he should have with pleasure supported it.  That had not been agreed to,
but if the Dissenters chose to establish another society, his funds
should be at their service.”  “The Rev. R. Hankinson spoke in favour of
an open society.  He said he belonged to several in the city, _all of
which were carried on with the greatest unanimity_.  He had, however,
yielded his opinions to those of others better qualified, perhaps, to
judge.”  I need not add that these are also the sentiments of Mr. Geary,
who says, in reference to my wishes for an union of all parties, “I truly
sympathize with him in those views and feelings which, were it
practicable, would suggest such an union;” and, “my reverend friend
cannot feel more intense satisfaction than I do, in thus witnessing the
joyful and happy state of brethren dwelling together in unity.”

I most earnestly hope and pray that these sentiments, so honourable to
the gentlemen who uttered them, may more extensively prevail, till they
have removed those “insuperable barriers” which at present exist, and
till they have rendered that union “practicable,” which so many feel to
be desirable.  Depend upon it, there are not half the difficulties really
existing, which some persons imagine.  The united system, if tried,
would, I am persuaded, work well—and I am sure that all who engaged in it
would be made better and happier by their combined exertions in doing
good.  There are some things, connected with both Church of Englandism
and Dissent, in which the two parties could not unite without a
compromise of principle.  As religious men, we have, however, a common
cause to promote, and a common enemy to withstand.  We ought, therefore,
as Christians, _to unite in every thing that admits of an union_; and, as
Infant Schools appear to me to be precisely of that character, I deeply
regret that we have not united in them.  I am somewhat comforted,
however, by the persuasion, that an exclusive system cannot last.  There
is an influential and increasing party in the church much opposed to it,
and who, as is stated in my “Letter,” “would be glad to co-operate with
other Christians in educating and in evangelizing the people.”  The
adoption of the exclusive system has occasioned regret in the minds of
many persons whom the church would have done well to conciliate; and I
much question whether either party is perfectly satisfied with the
proceedings that have been adopted.

Another remark or two will bring this part of my pamphlet to a close.
Mr. Geary is mistaken in supposing that I mentioned Leicester and Taunton
as towns “where a satisfactory union had been effected.”  My extracts
respecting them were intended to shew Mr. Wilderspin’s opinion respecting
the union of various denominations in the work.  I said nothing
respecting any schools at Leicester; and I quoted Mr. Babington’s speech
for the sake of shewing, not only his sentiments, but Mr. Wilderspin’s
also, because he calls it “an admirable speech.”  And as to Taunton,
after quoting what Mr. Wilderspin had said in approbation of the mixed
committee, I distinctly stated that “a school was set up on opposite
principles.”

Having stated in my “Letter” that the extracts which I had made from Mr.
Wilderspin’s book abundantly proved that he was “decidedly opposed to the
exclusive system advertised for Norwich,” Mr. Geary replies that this
appeal to the authority of Mr. Wilderspin “requires qualifying;” and
“that the cases do not lead to this conclusion.”  If Mr. Geary will be so
good as to turn again to my quotations, I think he will be induced to
agree with me that Mr. Wilderspin could scarcely have used stronger
language than he has used in reference to this subject.  He most
enthusiastically admires Joseph Lancaster’s system, because of “its
benevolent and Catholic spirit,” which establishes “schools for all;” and
he solemnly declares that he always has laboured on “the broadest
principle,” and that he determines to act “on that, and on that alone,
through the remainder of his life.”  I think, therefore, I am authorized
in repeating my former declaration, that “he is decidedly opposed to the
exclusive system advertised for Norwich.”

These cursory remarks are intended to rectify some mistakes into which
Mr. Geary appears to me to have fallen in his perusal of my “Letter.”
After all, I rejoice to believe that he and I are one in sentiment and
feeling on this subject.  The gentlemanly and Christian tone of his
letter, is an interesting evidence that there may be discussion and
controversy without violating any of the principles of the gospel, or any
of the courtesies of life.  I thank him, for his testimony that my
“Letter” “is characterised by a spirit of mildness and conciliation,” and
I am glad to find that he has read it in the spirit in which it was
written.  I thank him also for the manner in which he has spoken of the
“courtesy” manifested by the Dissenters connected with the Infant Schools
in this city towards their brethren in the Establishment.  And I take
leave of him in the hope, and with the prayer that, though we cannot walk
together through every path on earth, we may, through “the precious blood
of Christ,” and the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit, both of us be
found in that heaven of light and love, where we shall no longer “see
through a glass darkly, but face to face, and where we shall know even as
also we are known.”

                                * * * * *

I come now to the consideration of a subject on which I enter with
reluctance.  Since Mr. Geary’s pamphlet appeared, “Observations” on my
“Letter” have been published by a person who styles himself, “The Rev. J.
Perowne, Rector of St. John’s Maddermarket, Norwich.”  With some of the
members of his family, I have, for a long time, been acquainted.  They
have belonged to my congregation for nearly twenty years; and one of them
has lately become a member of the church of which I am the Pastor.  With
Mr. Perowne himself my acquaintance has been but slight, and I am left to
gather my opinion of his character and ministry almost entirely from the
“Observations” which he has published.  Those observations are of such a
nature that it is impossible to reply to them either _gravely_ or
_respectfully_; and I am quite of opinion that the most dignified course
would be, not to reply to them at all.  I fear however that some of the
statements which he has made, relative to the Infant Schools in this
city, and relative to the principles and conduct of the Dissenters, may
be believed by some persons, if they are not contradicted; and as he has
chosen to make my “Letter” the occasion of propagating many slanders, I
think it due to the public to submit to the humiliation of replying to
such an antagonist.

I am persuaded that every man who read my “Letter,” with an “honest
heart,” believed that my object in writing it was what I avowed; and that
I wished my fellow-christians in this city to unite in educating Infants,
because I thought that such an union would promote the interests of true
religion.  From the testimony of Mr. Geary’s pamphlet, and from several
communications which have been made to me, I am gratified with knowing
that the “Letter” has been received, by many religious and intelligent
persons, in the spirit in which it professed to be written.  With their
testimony I am satisfied; and therefore Mr. Perowne must excuse me if I
do not strive to vindicate myself from his charges of hypocrisy and
falsehood.  As he is the accuser, I have no need to become the
vindicator.  And all that I intend to do is to gather, from his own
“Observations,” the evidence which they afford of his character and
competency.

As Mr. Perowne is a clergyman who claims the attribute of “reverence,”
and who has solemnly declared that he was “inwardly moved by the Holy
Ghost to take upon him this office,” and “that he will maintain and set
forward quietness, peace, and love _among all Christian people_,” it was
not unreasonable to expect that his “Observations” would be in accordance
with his vows and professions.  I think, however, that I do not
misrepresent his publication when I say that none of the fruits of that
Spirit, with which he professes to be “inwardly moved,” are to be found
in it—that it is abundantly fruitful in rude personalities, in wanton
attacks on motives, in wilful distortions of the plainest language, in
pompous ignorance, and in supercilious pretensions—and that all these
qualities are left unredeemed even by the occasional introduction of
better sentiments and feelings.  Sometimes a man will use hard words, or
manifest intemperate passions, under the influence of strongly exciting
circumstances.  But here a calm and dark spirit of evil reigns throughout
the whole of a pamphlet, which was written in the retirement of his
study, and which he had no occasion to write at all.  This, however, is
mere description, and we must analyze the “Observations” themselves in
order to ascertain whether it be truth.

One prominent feature of the pamphlet is its utter dissimilarity, not
only to the Christian spirit which pervades Mr. Geary’s Defence, but also
to the speeches delivered at the Public Meeting, when the Infant School
Society was formed.  In them there is nothing ferocious, or insulting to
any class of the community; but, on the other hand, an expression of
respectful regret that certain obstacles prevented, in the opinion of the
speakers, the formation of a more comprehensive society, which some of
them would certainly have preferred.  Whether, in the course of Mr. P’s.
pamphlet, he alludes personally to any of those speakers, I will not take
upon myself to determine.  But he vehemently denounces all Churchmen, who
would unite with Dissenters in an Infant School, as “traitors to the
church,” and as “encouragers of dissimulation,” “who help forward the
ruin of the church by echoing the sentiments of liberalism.”  Not being
acquainted with the gradations in the ecclesiastical hierarchy, I am
unable to decide what rank he may hold among his brethren, or what
authority he may derive from the rectory of “St. John’s.”  But he
evidently speaks of himself, and addresses himself to clergymen and
others oraculously, as if he were the Polyphemus of a party.  “I tell
them,” says he, “_in the name_ of every true son of the church.”  “I
assure them that no true son of the church would listen to them.”  “WE
say to every churchman, profit by the lesson here taught you.”  These,
however, may be merely “great swelling words of vanity,” and I may be
perfectly right in the conjecture that his brethren disown alike his
authority and his spirit, and are disposed to “leave him alone with his
glory.”

A considerable portion of Mr. Perowne’s pamphlet, consists of
vituperations against the Dissenters.  Dissent, it is well known, is a
relative term, and is applied to such persons, in this country, as
profess to derive their doctrines and forms of church government from the
Scriptures, rather than from the liturgy and canons of the Church of
England.  They believe that the Scriptures are sufficient to direct them
in these matters; and they believe that their allegiance to Jesus Christ
requires them to submit to his supreme dominion as the only head of the
church, and to reject the ecclesiastical authority which either
Protestants or Papists may claim, but which Christ alone possesses.  On
this great principle they dissent from all establishments of religion by
the civil power; and they desire to stand quite independent of state
endowments, and of state interference in their spiritual concerns, so as
to constitute a “kingdom which is not of this world.”  Dissent therefore
can only be found in those countries where some particular form of
religion is established by the civil power.  There is no dissent in
America, because there is no Established Church there.  The government of
that country protects all denominations of Christians in the profession
of their religion, but it does not elevate one denomination above the
rest, nor does it prescribe to any denomination what forms of prayer they
shall adopt, what doctrines they shall believe, or what bishops or
pastors they shall choose.  Viewing the term, dissent, chronologically,
there are in this country two classes of Dissenters.  The first class
includes the Church of England, which some time ago dissented from the
Church of Rome, which had been, for several centuries established in this
country; and the other class is composed of those who have gone still
farther from the Church of Rome, and have dissented from the Church of
England.  In Scotland, the Established Church is not Episcopalian, as in
this country, but Presbyterian; so that when Dr. Chalmers, who belongs to
the Established Church in Scotland, comes into England, he is a Dissenter
during his stay, and is not permitted to preach in any of the pulpits of
the church; and if Mr. Perowne were to cross the Tweed, he would
instantly become a Dissenter, and might find it necessary to defend
himself against the attacks of the “Apostolical Establishment” {15} of
that country, which binds all her sons “to root out and destroy all
prelacy.”  Using the term dissent in its general acceptation, Mr. Perowne
says, “the only doctrine in which all Dissenters agree is that of
dissenting from the church.”  Now whether “dissenting from the church” be
a “doctrine” or a practice is not of much consequence, nor is it a very
wonderful discovery, that all Dissenters should agree to dissent.  But
Mr. Perowne is not aware that he has brought the same argument against
dissent, that the Roman Catholics bring against Protestantism; and one
argument is worth just as much as the other, which is just nothing at
all.  The “Rector of St. John’s Maddermarket,” when that church belonged
to the Papists, might have said to the Protestants, “I should like to
know what doctrines _Protestantism_ considers essential.  The only
doctrine in which all _Protestants_ agree, is that of _protesting_
against the church.  That is ‘essential’ to their religion, and that
alone.”  These, the reader will perceive, are precisely Mr. Perowne’s
words, if the term dissent be substituted for Protestant; and though he
has endeavoured to make many of them look impressive, by printing them in
italics, I consider them too puerile to admit of any serious refutation.

But the object of Mr. Perowne, in the paragraph from which I have quoted,
is to shew that, while Dissenters agree in practical dissent, they widely
differ in doctrine.  “In other respects, says he, a man may be a
Socinian, an Arian, a Quaker, an Anabaptist, an Irvingite, a Calvanist,
an Armenian, {16} or a Baxterian.  He may hold any notions he pleases.
If he do but dissent, he has the essential doctrine of their religion.”
Now how blind a man must be, not to perceive that all this language is as
much against Mr. Perowne and his church, as it is against Dissenters, and
that he himself falls into the very ditch into which he attempts to throw
dissent.  Are there not doctrines believed, and even taught in the Church
of England, “wide as the poles asunder?”  Are there not some heresies
within her pale from which Dissenters are happily free?  May not
_millenarianism_ be found in some of her clergy, as well as among the
Irvingites?  Does not Mr. Perowne himself sanction persons who leave
their own parish churches to attend at “St. John’s Maddermarket,” because
he preaches a gospel which is opposed to the preaching of the other
clergy?  Is not this acting on one of the leading principles of dissent,
which asserts the right of Christians to choose their own ministers?  And
if these things be so—and I could enumerate perhaps quite as many
varieties of doctrine in the church as Mr. P. can find out of it—why
should he “cast the first stone” at Dissenters, for the very sin of which
he himself is guilty? and why should he attempt to “pull out the mote
from his brother’s eye, when there is a beam in his own?”

Mr. Perowne speaks very contemptuously of all professors of religion who
are not members of his own community; and especially of Roman Catholics
and Socinians.  The doctrines, which are held by both these
denominations, appear to me to be subversive, in different ways, of the
gospel of Christ.  They probably consider me to be in equal error; and
though we cannot have communion together in religious worship, I think
that I should be acting an unchristian part, were I to refuse to unite
with them in any works of benevolence, in which we can unite without the
compromise of religious principle.  Mr. P’s. object in referring to these
persons is to bring our Infant School System into disrepute; and
therefore we must examine his statements.  “If I am rightly informed,”
says he, “the school in Crook’s Place and that in St. Miles’ have
Socinians among the most regular and active superintendents.”  I am not
much acquainted with the school in Crook’s Place; but I once visited it,
for the purpose of examining the children on Scripture subjects; and,
with the exception of a little girl, who said that “the High Priest of
the church was the king of England,” they gave very satisfactory answers
to my questions relative to the great doctrines of redemption; so that
heterodoxy was not perceptible there.  With the school in St. Miles’ I am
more intimately connected; having been accustomed to visit it monthly.
There are Dissenters on the committee, but none of them are Socinians.
There are also members of the Establishment on the committee, and in the
office of treasurer and secretary; and, though I am not acquainted with
their individual sentiments, yet I have no reason to suspect that any of
them entertain Socinian doctrine—and I fully believe that Mr. Perowne’s
charge has not the slightest foundation in fact.

But even if Socinians were “among the most regular and active
superintendents,” with what consistency can they be objected to on that
account by Mr. Perowne?  “If a man will but leave the Church of England,”
says he, “or assist in pulling it down, he is _a Christian brother_, even
though he denies the Lord who bought him, or bow before an idol.”  Now,
to say nothing of the grammar of this sentence, or of the “false
accusation” which it involves, I would ask whether Mr. Perowne himself,
as a minister of the Established Church, does not acknowledge both
“Papists and Socinians” to be Christian brethren?  Does he not recognise
the validity of popish baptism, and acknowledge its regenerating
qualities to be as effectual as his own?  Would he not admit a Roman
Catholic priest, who had recanted, to his pulpit without re-ordination,
and thereby acknowledge that a popish bishop is able to communicate the
Holy Ghost?  But, without proceeding in these inquiries, relative to the
Catholic who “bow before an idol,” let us notice the case of the
Socinians, who “deny the Lord that bought them.”  Has Mr. Perowne, who
renounces all communion with them as a church, no communion with them
individually?  Most assuredly he has; and there is not a Socinian in the
kingdom whom he would hesitate to receive and to acknowledge, under
certain circumstances, as “a Christian brother!”  He receives tithes and
church rates from them; and thereby has communion with them in the
support of the “Apostolical Establishment.”  He admits Socinians to speak
and vote amidst the “peaceful and loving scenes” which are witnessed at
vestry meetings; and Mr. Perowne himself, being in the chair, would act
upon a resolution which had been carried by a Socinian majority, and
thereby permit Socinians to bear rule in the church.  Were a Socinian to
be seen kneeling at the altar of the church, Mr. Perowne would not dare
to refuse him the bread and wine, if he were not “an open and notorious
evil liver.”  And when the Socinian, who dies in the very act of “denying
the Lord that bought him,” is conveyed in a coffin to St. John’s
Maddermarket, Mr. Perowne clothes himself in white, and solemnly
declares, “I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Blessed are the
dead which die in the Lord; even so saith the Spirit; for they rest from
their labours.”  Mr. Perowne then calls this same Socinian his “_dear
brother_”—he gives God “hearty thanks that it hath pleased him to deliver
this _brother_ out of the miseries of this sinful world”—he declares that
“it hath pleased Almighty God of his great mercy _to take unto himself
the soul of our dear brother_ here departed”—he prays that, when he
himself dies, and that when those around him “shall depart this life,
they _may rest in Christ as our hope is this our brother doth_”—and then
he completes and crowns the whole by declaring, “We therefore commit his
body to the ground; earth to earth; ashes to ashes; dust to dust; IN SURE
AND CERTAIN HOPE OF THE RESURRECTION TO ETERNAL LIFE, THROUGH OUR LORD
JESUS CHRIST!”  And yet this very Mr. Perowne rails against the orthodox
Dissenters for associating with Socinians, and solemnly anathematizes all
Bible Societies and Infant Schools which permit Socinians to become
members!  “Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel!”

Were the Dissenters of this country to abstain from all interference in
“contested elections,” and to leave both church and state to the care of
others, such a course of proceeding might be very agreeable to Mr.
Perowne, but I question whether it would be serviceable to civil and
religious liberty.  If, however, there be any guilt in this matter, it
does not lie exclusively at the door of nonconformist “teachers and
members,” and when Mr. P. offers to feel their pulse, and to write out
prescriptions for them, he ought to remember the proverb, “Physician heal
thyself.”  Party politics have, I confess, no charms for me; and I very
earnestly desire that all religious men who come in contact with them,
whether Church-people or Dissenters, may so conduct themselves as to give
no “occasion to the enemies of God to blaspheme.”

Utterly forgetful of the strife which is often manifested at the “vestry
meetings” of his own church, he ventures to attack our “church meetings,”
at which, he says, “peaceful and loving scenes sometimes take place.”  I
dare say that if Mr. Perowne knew much of the history of “church
meetings,” from those which were held in Corinth, during the apostolic
times, down to our own days, he might tell of some in which peace and
love were not very apparent.  A thinking mind will perceive, however,
that an ecclesiastical system may be good in itself, and even divine in
its origin, as that at Corinth was, and yet it may be very imperfectly
and improperly exhibited and administered by human beings.  In such a
case the fault is not in the system, but in the men.  But whatever
exceptions to peace and love may have occasionally appeared in our church
meetings, I deny that Mr. Perowne’s description is applicable to their
general character.  Our churches are formed on the principle that none
but those who profess and practise the gospel of Christ are eligible for
membership; and when any person of contrary character is discovered among
us, he is excluded from the society, and, as a matter of course, falls
into the Establishment.  Taking them with all their imperfections, I
believe not only that they are formed according to the apostolic model,
but that they are among the best societies of men to be found in this
sinful world—“and no man shall stop me of this boasting” on their behalf.
The church of which I am the pastor, was formed about sixteen years ago.
It then contained thirteen members, and since then between three and four
hundred have been added.  Our church meetings are held monthly, for the
purposes of devotion, of receiving additional members, and, occasionally,
for the transaction of business, necessary to preserve the order and
purity of the church.  I do not, of course, expect that Mr. Perowne will
believe my testimony on this subject, but I confidently appeal to the
members of my church for evidence respecting the character of our
meetings.  Those “hallowed influences,” to which Mr. Perowne so
contemptuously refers, have abundantly blessed them, nor do I expect to
witness any scenes more truly “peaceful and loving,” till “the general
assembly and church of the first born” appears in heaven.

Another charge, which Mr. Perowne vehemently urges against Dissenters, is
that they are aiming to destroy the church to which he belongs.  “The
leading organs of dissent,” says he, “openly avow that nothing but the
destruction of our church will satisfy them.”  I should think my own
church destroyed, if it were to be overrun with infidelity or heresy, or
if it were to be broken up and dispersed as a society of Christians.
But, as Mr. Perowne is acquainted with “the leading organs of dissent,”
he knows very well that Dissenters have no desire to see the Church of
England brought into such a condition; and that all they wish is that the
Established Church would support its own ministers, and pay its own
expenses, without taxing other churches.  And this, if I understand him
rightly, he would call “the destruction of the church.”  If so, all the
dissenting churches are destroyed already.  They have no connection with
the state, as a controlling power—they choose their own ministers—and
they pay their own expenses.  They are therefore, according to Mr.
Perowne, in a state of “destruction”—they are “things which are not,” and
he may perhaps be aware that such things are sometimes employed “to bring
to nought things which are.”

But the wholesale charge which he brings against the Nonconformists is,
that their system “leads men to tear in pieces the body of Christ—to set
at nought the powers that be—to speak evil of dignities—to imbibe and
inculcate a disloyal, republican, revolutionary spirit.”  And he might
have added, with equal truth, that it is productive of hydrophobia, that
it brought the cholera into the country a short time ago, and that it
turned all the members of our churches into cannibals.  Charges such as
he has brought, false and ridiculous as they are, have been incessantly
repeated since the day when the Head of our churches was himself reviled
by the priests, as “a fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to
give tribute to Cæsar.”  And they will no doubt continue to be repeated,
till “the accuser of the brethren is cast out.”  They are always freely
used by those who find it more convenient to revile than to argue; and
they are as useful to such persons, as the broken lantern was to the
watchman, who always kept it by him to exhibit as a proof that his
victims had been guilty of a riot.

I now proceed to select some specimens of the manner in which he has
perverted the language of my letter, and also some specimens of the
literature and logic with which his “Observations” are interspersed.

Alluding to the title of my letter he asks, “What right a Dissenter has
to remonstrate with the members of the church, on any steps they think
proper to take _with regard to the education of the children belonging to
their own communion_?”  The proper answer to this question is, that I had
no right at all to remonstrate on such a subject.  But what will the
reader think, when I tell him that _I never did remonstrate on such a
subject_, and that Mr. Perowne’s apparent object in giving such a form to
his question is to excite a prejudice against my Letter at the very
beginning of his “Observations.”  He knows that the Infant Schools, which
the members of the Establishment projected, were _not_ for “the education
of children belonging to their own communion,” but for “the children of
persons of all denominations.”  And he knows that my remonstrance was
directed against those who wished to make the members of one church the
Instructors of Infants, to the exclusion of the members of all other
churches.  The artifice which he has adopted may have answered the
purpose which he had in view, but it is not the result of an upright and
honourable mind, and it manifests much more of the subtilty of the
serpent than of the harmlessness of the dove.

Mr. Perowne, having remarked that I had advised the Establishment to act
on “the principles on which the Infant Schools in Norwich have hitherto
been conducted,” asks, “What are those principles?”  And professing to
gather his reply from my Letter, he answers, “That the Dissenters _should
have the chief management of them_,” while “the members of the
Established Church, afford help in directing the concerns, and in
defraying the expenses.”  Such “counsel,” I admit, is as impertinent as
to deny to Churchmen the right “to educate the children belonging to
their own communion.”  But _I never gave such counsel_; and Mr. Perowne’s
interpretation of my language is both unjust and absurd.  The statement
in my letter is this.  The committees of the Infant Schools “are composed
of members of the Establishment and of other Christian churches”—and, as
it respects the school in St. Miles’, “repeated efforts have been made to
induce members of the Established Church to afford greater help in
directing its concerns, as well as in defraying its expenses.”  Now mark
the injustice of my commentator.  In professing to quote my language, he
leaves out the word “greater,” which is an important word in the
sentence, and then he tells his readers that my counsel is “that the
Dissenters should have _the chief_ management of the schools” about to be
instituted.  And now mark his reasoning.  The Dissenters have made
repeated efforts to induce Churchmen “to afford greater help in
_directing_ the schools;” _therefore_ Dissenters desire to have “the
_chief management_ of them!”  Admirable logic!  If “a supposed second
Solomon” be needed in the schools of Dissent, no such prodigy is required
in the Establishment.  Her “mountains have laboured,” and her Solomon is
born!

The next specimen is of a similar character.  I had said, in my Letter,
that as the promoters of the public examination in St. Andrew’s Hall had,
in order to effect it, “received assistance from their dissenting fellow
citizens, as well as from others,” our “friendly proceedings” would be
“used against ourselves,” if they “were to be rewarded by our utter
exclusion from all future participation with Churchmen in the system of
Infant Education.”  “Brethren!” exclaims Mr. Perowne, “Brethren! here you
have a truth of the utmost importance, plainly told you from the pen of a
Dissenter.”  And what is the truth that my dissenting pen has told?  Why,
that the conduct of the church, in excluding Dissenters, would be
“against” those “friendly proceedings” which we had shewn towards the
church.  But because it would be _against our courtesy_, Mr. Perowne, in
the might and majesty of his logic, jumps to the conclusion that it would
be _against our nonconformity_!  And then, having made this notable
discovery, for which he certainly deserves a patent, he blows his “penny
trumpet,” and summons the whole hierarchy to listen to his proclamation,
that if the church will uniformly treat Dissenters as they have been
treated in this business, the “venerable Establishment” is secure.
“Brethren! here you have a truth of the utmost importance!”

Mr. Perowne complains of the pain which I have produced in him, by what I
have said “about love and union.”  “Such things,” says he “_painfully_
remind us of the days of Charles the first.”  This Charles, it will be
remembered, as the “head of the church,” in his days, and “out of a like
_pious care for the service of God_, as had his blessed father,”
published the “Book of Sports,” which authorized the people to amuse
themselves with all sorts of games, &c. on the Lord’s day, and which the
clergy read to their congregations after divine service.  I have no wish,
however, to mention “Charles the first” to any man of acute sensibility,
and I was not aware that my recommendation of “love and union” would
remind any one of that ill-fated monarch.  Mr. Perowne’s peculiar
sensibility on this subject, and the remarkable fact that, in writing a
pamphlet on Infant Schools, he should twice refer to “Charles the first,”
and “our martyred Charles,” is calculated to excite strange suspicions in
the mind of a believer in the doctrine of metempsychosis.  Why should
_Mr. Perowne_ feel pain when he is reminded of “Charles the first?” or
why should “love and union” remind him of “our martyred Charles” at all,
except on the principle of the Bramins, that “we should never kill a
flea, lest we inflict _pain_ on the soul of some of our ancestors.”  It
is true that Charles frequently boasted that he was “a true son of the
church.”  It is true that Charles entertained the very same feelings
against Puritans, as Mr. Perowne does against Dissenters.  It is true
that some of the sentiments in Mr. P’s. pamphlet are as precisely _Icôn
Basilikè_ as if they had been dictated by the soul of the headless
monarch.  It is true, as Bishop Burnet says, that Charles the first
“loved high and rough measures, but had neither skill to conduct them,
nor height of genius to manage them.  _He hated all that offered prudent
and moderate counsels_; and, even when it was necessary to follow such
advices, he hated those that gave them.”  It is true—but, to use Mr.
Perowne’s language, “I forbear to finish a picture so painful to
contemplate,” and shall only add, that David Hume, in his history of
England, states that the last word the king said, was, “REMEMBER”—and
that “_great mysteries_ were supposed to be concealed under that
expression.”

Mr. P. appeals to the Collect which I quoted, and which he says I have
“mutilated,” as affording evidence that “exclusive Churchmen, are
consistent Churchmen;” thereby leading us to infer that the church
teaches her members to shew their consistency by their exclusiveness,
even in the exercise of prayer, and in the presence of Deity!  Supposing,
however, that the Collect afforded evidence of the charity of the church,
rather than of her bigotry, I advised her members to act in accordance
with its spirit, and thereby to “add practice to profession and to
prayer.”  This advice, Mr. P. intimates, is, on my part, an assumption of
_infallibility_—as if none but a Papist could consistently enjoin
practical piety, or admonish his hearers to shew their faith by their
works.  “Is Mr. A. infallible?” my inquisitor asks, and immediately adds,
“The Pope of Rome could not have gone further!”  I have not heard much of
the Pope lately, but in former times he was a tolerably far traveller,
especially when he was in the pursuit of Dissenting heretics.  But as Mr.
P. may perhaps claim an acquaintance, as well as a relationship with his
Holiness, I shall not dispute the matter, but humbly submit to the
decision, that the Pope of Rome never went further than I have gone in my
“Letter.”

The next paragraph, in Mr. P’s. “Observations,” is chiefly historical,
and he has contrived to give us “a bird’s eye view” of the state of
religion in this country, from the days of “our martyred {28} Charles”
downwards.  It thus begins.  “It is said that our church ought to set an
example of meekness and conciliation.  I SAY she has done so to an extent
unparalleled in modern times.”  In proof of this oracular declaration, he
shews in the first place, what the church _has_ done.  “And what has been
her conduct while attacked by the army of the aliens?”  To this question,
I will first give my own answer, and then Mr. Perowne’s.  My own answer
is this.  She “excommunicated, ipso facto,” whosoever affirmed “that the
Church of England, by law established under the King’s Majesty, is not a
true and an apostolical church.”  She erected a spiritual court, in which
her ministers sat in judgment on men’s consciences.  She maintained a
star chamber, where she slit men’s noses, and cut off their ears.  She
passed corporation and test acts; and an act of uniformity, by which two
thousand godly ministers were driven from her pulpits, and in some cases
persecuted unto death by her virulence.  Mr. Perowne’s account of her
conduct amidst all these transactions is this.  “_Confiding in her God_,
_she has continued her labour of love_, _scarcely raising her hand to
ward off the blows that have been aimed at her_!”  But her historian goes
on to inform us that her acts of “meekness and conciliation,” in former
days, are far surpassed by her present conduct; for this is what I
suppose Mr. P. intended to mean when he said, “She has done so to an
extent _unparalleled in modern times_.”  Whatever his ambiguity may mean,
he certainly endeavours to represent the church as greatly increasing in
“meekness and conciliation;” for now, when she sees the wicked Dissenters
attempting to assassinate her, she does not even “lift her hand” as she
did formerly; but, like a true member of “the Peace Society,” she merely
“withdraws from such” persons; and she thus withdraws, says her
historian, “not in a spirit of revenge and bitterness, but in the spirit
of Him who prayed for his enemies!”  I shall refrain from commenting on
this concluding declaration, any farther than to ask, whether the
remotest comparison between the spirit breathed throughout Mr. Perowne’s
pamphlet, and the dying prayer of the Redeemer, is not an insult to the
“meek and lowly” Jesus.

We now proceed to what may be appropriately called “the patronage
paragraph.”  It was occasioned by the following sentences in my Letter,
“addressed to the members of the Established Church.”  “I know well that
such an exclusive system is not the desire of you all.  There are some
among you who wish to see the Church of England ‘national’ in her
feelings and in her philanthropy, as well as in her name, and who would
be glad to co-operate with other Christians in educating and in
evangelizing the people; but who at the same time deem it desirable, on
the whole, to submit to other parties in the church, whose patronage and
support are valued.”  “This passage,” says Mr. Perowne, “I consider in
itself _a sufficient reason_ for my publishing _to the world_ my own
views and feelings on the subject in question.  The parties alluded to
_must be clergymen_.”  Why must they be clergymen?  Merely because I had
used the words “patronage and support.”  I used the words in their
general acceptation, just as any person, in “pretended holy orders” would
use them, little thinking of the ecclesiastical meaning which “a real
reverend” might put upon them.  I knew that if Dissenters were excluded
from the committee of Infant Schools, such a proceeding would obtain for
the schools the “patronage and support” of such persons in the church as
would unite only with Episcopalians; and as some of those persons have
influence and property wherewith to help the schools, I supposed that
such “patronage and support” would be “valued.”  But my words happened to
be read by a man who understands by “patronage and support” the means of
obtaining a better _living_ than “Saint John’s Maddermarket.”  And, with
this idea in his mind, he begins to reason on the subject with a sagacity
all his own.  “The parties alluded to,” says he, “must be clergymen.”
And his argument in proof is this—“Patronage” is no temptation to laymen.
They therefore never act dishonestly to gain it.  It never deters them
“from following out the convictions of their own minds.”  None but
clergymen can be guilty of this.  Now I, “the Rev. John Perowne,” am a
clergyman—and, referring perhaps to the principle that “blessings
brighten as they take their flight,” he adds, “my character is of some
value to me”—and then, wishing to be thought as pure as Cæsar’s wife, he
declares, “I cannot allow myself to be even suspected.”  No, indeed.
Were a patron to become suspicious, it might prevent the desired
“patronage” from being bestowed.  And should any “exclusive Churchman”
ever offer this “senior wrangler” a better living than he now possesses,
we shall all see the triumph of principle, and the “value” of
“character,” displayed, by his declining it.  He will say, “Nolo
Episcopari” in the presence of a mitre—whenever it is offered to him.

But to proceed with this “patronage paragraph.”  I had said, in my
Letter, “I know well, that such an exclusive system is not the desire of
you all.”  Now this “exclusive system” _is_ the desire of Mr. Perowne,
and he has put himself forward as its great champion.  He therefore
concludes that, as I have described a class of persons whose views are
directly opposed to his, I must have meant himself!  His argument is—Mr.
A. says that some persons do not approve of this “exclusive system.”  I
do approve of it.  Therefore he refers to me!  Q.E.D.  Whether such
syllogisms come from Oxford or from Cambridge, I am unable to determine,
as I know not at which of the Universities Mr. Perowne was educated, and
as Dissenters are “excluded” from them both.

In the course of this immortal paragraph, two things yet remain to be
briefly noticed.  First, he charges me with uttering a direct falsehood,
and says that he will not believe my statements unless they are
“authenticated by at least two witnesses.”  I have already intimated that
I shall not trouble myself to gain his assent to any statements I have
made.  He had before him the speeches made at the public meeting; he had
before him Mr. Geary’s pamphlet; in both of which the statements I have
made are reiterated; and yet, though he had before him the testimony of
these three or four witnesses, he says he will not believe, till he has
“at least two witnesses.”  Let him disbelieve it then.  And, secondly, in
his note to the paragraph, he charges some of the clergy with consenting
to “unite with Dissenters in the Bible Society,” “_on condition_” that a
Dissenter should pay their subscriptions.  I hope it is distinctly
understood that, in these pages, I make no attack upon the clergy, and
that I have to do with Mr. Perowne _only_; yet, though the clergy do not
need me as their defender, I am bound to declare that, having associated
with several of them in the Bible Society for nearly twenty years, I
believe that they joined it from true conviction, and not from such a
base and paltry “_condition_” as that which Mr. Perowne alleges.  He has,
however, carefully abstained from mentioning names, and from advancing
proofs, both of which ought to have accompanied such a disreputable
accusation of his brethren.

The bishops, of whom he speaks in the next paragraph, were “immured in a
prison” on a charge of high treason; and a bill, to exclude them from the
House of Lords, passed both houses of parliament, and received the
signature of “our martyred Charles.”  And, if it was ever “made unlawful
for an Episcopalian to worship God according to the dictates of his own
conscience,” Mr. Perowne ought to know that this was done by
parliamentary authority, and that the church might even now visit every
Dissenter with pains and penalties, for not worshipping within her walls,
were she not mercifully prevented by the Act of Toleration.

One more paragraph yet remains.  I had said in my Letter, that “the
essential doctrines and hallowed influences” of religion “ought to be far
dearer to us all than any forms of ecclesiastical government.  For the
kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and
joy in the Holy Ghost.”  This, he intimates, is equivalent to saying that
“forms of ecclesiastical government” are “_matters of little moment_.”  I
did not say so.  I said that doctrines and influences ought to be “far
dearer” to us than such forms.  Having, however, made me say that they
are “matters of little moment,” he asks, why then do we separate from the
church?  I ask in reply, why does the church _impose_ them? and why does
he write a pamphlet against those who conscientiously refuse to comply
with them?  Let Mr. Perowne regenerate a child by baptism, and cross its
forehead, if he pleases.  Let him kneel at the table, around which Christ
and his disciples sat, if he pleases.  Let him call a Socinian his “dear
brother,” and bury him “in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to
eternal life,” if he pleases.  But let him not attempt to compel me to
adopt such practices; let him not anathematize me for not conforming to a
church which declares that it “hath power to decree rites and
ceremonies,” when I believe that such “power” is possessed by Christ
alone.  I am not the separatist.  I “stand fast in the liberty with which
Christ hath made me free.”  He is the schismatic who insists upon the
practice of unscriptural and popish ceremonies, as the terms of communion
with the church of Christ.  “The schism,” says Archbishop Laud, in
addressing Papists, and in justifying the church of England in her
dissent from the church of Rome, “The schism is theirs whose the cause of
it is; and he makes the separation who gives the first cause of it, _not
he that makes an actual separation upon a just cause preceding_.”  Let
Mr. Perowne talk no more about separation, but remember that “those who
live in a house of glass should never throw stones.”

Mr. Perowne denounces the application which I have made of the passage of
Scripture, which I quoted for the purpose of illustration.  “I did not
before know,” says he, “that ‘forms of ecclesiastical government,’ and
‘meat and drink’ were synonimous terms.”  And what of that?  There are
many things which Mr. Perowne does not know.  He does not know, for
instance, how to spell _synonymous_, and until he has learned that, I
shall not undertake to instruct him in higher matters.

Several of the extracts which I have made, from the observations in this
wretched pamphlet, place the writer of them in a most unfortunate
predicament.  He either believes that his interpretations of my language
are the true meaning, or he does not so believe.  In the former case, his
“Observations” manifest a want of sense; in the latter case, a want of
honesty.  It is impossible to go through his pamphlet without lamenting
over the condition of a church which is compelled to submit to such
incompetent or unprincipled instructors.  What must be the follies or
fanaticism of disciples who are taught to explain passages of Scripture
on the principles on which “this true son of the church” has explained my
Letter.  This, however, is a subject on which we are not left to mere
conjecture.  In the volume which contains some of the “Sermons” with
which Mr. Perowne has edified his flock, he teaches that Jesus Christ is
shortly coming in person to reign in Jerusalem—that the saints will be
raised from the dead, at least a thousand years before the general
resurrection, for the purpose of reigning together with Christ—that
Jerusalem will be to them “what Windsor castle is to our king and his
family”—and that they will have “various enjoyments through the medium of
the senses,” “meat and drink” included.  He also declares, “I have said
nothing of the new division of the Holy land, of the rebuilding of the
Temple, or of the re-institution of the Temple service; THOUGH ALL THIS
WILL CERTAINLY TAKE PLACE!!”  There now.  Let any Irvingite or
Swedenborgian beat that if he can.  And let all Dissenters take joyfully
the abuse which Mr. Perowne has heaped upon them, so long as the law
tolerates them in leaving St. John’s Maddermarket, in order to be
instructed by those who “understand what they say, and whereof they
affirm.”

I have now done with “The Reverend John Perowne, Rector of St. John’s
Maddermarket, Norwich.”  I have examined his reasonings.  I have
corrected his mistakes.  I have exposed his misrepresentations.  In so
doing I have endeavoured to comply with the motto which he has inserted
in his title page, and to “MARK them which cause divisions and offences;”
and I now retire from the study of his “Observations,” deeply impressed
with the conviction, that fallen indeed must that cause be, which either
needs, or accepts such a defender.

                                * * * * *

                                 THE END.

                                * * * * *

                                 Norwich:
               PRINTED BY JOSIAH FLETCHER, UPPER HAYMARKET.



FOOTNOTES.


{15}  Mr. Perowne uses the expression, “our _apostolical_ establishment,”
as if there had been an _Established_ Church in the days of the apostles.
The establishment of religion by the state, did not take place till the
reign of Constantine, which was three hundred years after Christ, and
when the church had become grossly corrupted by “the mystery of
iniquity.”  It is still more erroneous to speak of “_our_ apostolical
establishment,” for the Protestant Church of England was not established
till the time of Henry the Eighth.

{16}  A man who writes himself “reverend,” and who intermeddles with
latin and logic, ought to be able to spell correctly.  “Calvanist” and
“Armenian,” are wrong.  The former should be Calvinist, and the latter
should be Arminian.  I hope that the Infant School system, which Mr.
Perowne patronises, will not be so “exclusive” as to exclude spelling
from its literature.  Let Mr. P. take advantage of this hint—for he
learnedly remarks, “_Licet vel_ ab hoste doceri.”

{28}  Mr. Warner, a clergyman of the Church of England, in his
“_Conformist’s Plea for the Nonconformists_,” observes “It is _absurd to
call him a martyr_, for there was too great a complication of causes
which led to his execution, to ascribe it wholly or principally to
religion.  The vice which ruined him was insincerity; so that his enemies
saw that they could not trust him to perform his insincere though liberal
promises.”





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