Page images

sentative to propose addressing the Legislature on the subject of TITHES; as has been done by the Meeting for Sufferings respecting the Churchrates, in the course of the present Session. The only Quaker-movement against the upholders of decimation has been made by an individual, who has put in circulation a third impression, at his own charge, of a spirited Tract of John Milton, quaintly entitled, Considerations on the likeliest means to remove Hirelings out of the Church:' being a production of our great bard under the rule of Independency and the Commonwealth.

What are we to infer from this apathy? We had petitioned twice, and our requests lay on the table. If we had moved a third time, should we not have been treated at least as favourably by the House? But on whom did it rest (now that the mind of the Yearly Meeting has been twice declared, under the hands of so great a majority of the Friends in Town) to propose the measure? I suppose on the leaders of our business; the Friends at the Table, and their immediate supporters? Not one of these however appears to have gone so far as to consult his colleagues about it! There has not come to my own knowledge, (whose concern on the subject is become public,) any the least tendency to the agitation of this great question among us, in the present Yearly Meeting.

The Interest which had been again and again excited in our minds on the subject of our Religious liberties, of late years, appears to have evaporated; in the innumerable projects brought up in other departments of Christian enterprise and Reform; and in the controversy which has been set on foot between different classes of our members, on some important points of Christian doctrine. Thus has our attention been drawn away, for the present, from this (at present most needful and seasonable) TESTIMONY to the Truth and way of our GOD!

If the wily spirit of the PRIEST has been able to accomplish this; if, by the specious discourses of modern preachers, and leaders of coteries (male and female) within our borders, we have been disarmed; if, by obscure denunciations of Divine wrath and danger, we have been deterred from proceeding;-if the compliance-the dastardly compliance thus required, be already inwardly felt, and be soon to appear in overt acts on the part of individuals, then will the noble passive Testimony, for which our forefathers suffered unto death, pass away (as it seems already to be passing) into other and better hands: and it will be no easy thing to conceive of the depth of disgrace into which, in the sight of God and man,

our once 'favoured Society' will have fallen! I know there are, yet, among us, those who stand ready to break the earthen vessels of an unrighteous reserve, and show their lights to the dismay and confusion of the enemy: but the word of command from Gideon is yet withheld; or that leader of courage is wanting.

Let us turn, now, to what subjects of encouragement we may be able to draw from the matter before us. In the year 1818 (as I chanced to find it standing first in the book on the Table) reports of Sufferings came up from the different Quarterly Meetings, to the amount of £15,600. Of this sum, not less than £1,475 fell under the head of 'Tithe in kind;'that is to say, of produce taken out of the field, neither set forth as a tenth by the owner, nor adjudged by any Legal process or warrant to the taker. In the present account, out of a total of £11,175, the unlawful plunder made of our property in this way amounts to £533;—a large reduction upon both, in the course of eighteen years, even with a large allowance for the depreciation in value of every product of the field! But it is not all encouragement: the quaker who can stand by and see his property so removed, and not use every Legal and peaceable means to prevent it, gives away his Testimony, and (in a sense) renders to the parson the tithe. Friends of Ireland appear so to understand it: they will not put down in the Quarterly Meeting as a 'Suffering' any such levy. So it was stated in the Yearly Meeting by one of their number this year: but in fourteen out of our twenty-seven subordinate Meetings the practice yet obtains, and I will publish the Meetings here with the sums annexed. They are, Berks and Oxon £9. 5s.; Bristol and Somerset £26. 5s.; Bucks £16. 19s.; Cambridge and Hunts £117.; [in the same paper are various accounts of tithes distrained for by warrant, up to £80 in amount in one case ;] Cheshire and Staffordshire £15. 13s. 6d.; Cornwall £1. 8s.; [an old remnant of compliance doubtless, and found at 23s. in 1818;] Cumberland and Northumberland £79. 1s. [the claimants among the rich, the noble, and the mighty' of the earth;] Dorset and Hants £3. 10s.; Durham £92. 19s. 6d. [less by one third than in 1835; claimants Clerical—but Essex, on £2,917. taken, shows an hundred cases of claim, going up to £136. in one case, taken by warrant, and not one seizure of this equivocal kind;] Hereford, &c. £2.; Lancashire £44. 7s. 8d. [reduced from £64. 7s. 6d. of last year;] London and Middlesex £11. 5s. only, of 'tithe without warrant;' Westmoreland £81. 5s. [a little reduced from last year's amount;] Yorkshire £43. 8s. [reduced from £112. 9s. 3d.]

[ocr errors]

Surely no good reason can be given, why Colleges and Halls, and the mighty descendants of their founders of old time, should not succumb to the Laws in this free country along with the vulgar: why the Duke of D—or the Earl of L― should not cause his steward or his agent to take out a warrant, for this seizure from a tenant, along with the parson and impropriator. There must be found, methinks, a little too sensitive a

mind in some honest Friends on these occasions; or they would represent how inconsistent it was with their profession, to submit to such irregularities. And as to the matter of practical expediency, having looked over the several Lists, I think I can assure them, the far greater number of seizures are worth a warrant, (none now exceeding Legal limits,) and that on very few indeed, of the most insignificant, would the charges of a regular proceeding double the loss incurred by the Friend. Let us hope that, ere another Yearly Meeting, this careless collusion will be brought nearer to an end among us.

Now for the subject at large, as affecting the prospects of our Religious Society. It is quite probable that, before we meet again in London, the Tithe as it is found in existence throughout the country, may be converted by Act of parliament into a permanent charge on the land, with every provision for recovery from non-payers short of imprisonment of the person. If we disliked the prospect of the continuance of this impost, for the exclusive support of the Clergy of the sect of the Establishment, we ought certainly to have stated our objections in time: and the best possible tender we could have made, to Parliament, would have been that of being heard in evidence before both Houses on the whole case. On the nature of the claims made upon us, as viewed by ourselves; on the proceedings under them; on the Sufferings past and present endured by the Quakers, through the operation of the vicious and greatly corrupted system of decimation now in use.

I will endeavour to show why. In my last volume I presented a summary of Law about Tithes, from an old author, by which the Reader may perceive that, in its original bearings, this tax extended to the tenth-part of the profits OF ALL HONEST AND LAWFUL OCCUPATIONS. It was then (however built on credulity by base fraud and covetise') a tolerably equal thing the commutation of such a tithe for a perpetual Rent-charge on all Lands and tenements whatsoever, on all funded and other property throughout the land, would have fallen lighter, and might have been borne patiently; in the hope that, at length, the right use and equitable application would have succeeded to the securing of the Fund.


But this inexhaustible mine, this incalculable source of wealth to a particular order of men is now, by the gradual encroachments of time on antiquity, by the continual struggles of liberty against corrupt use, reduced pretty much to a tax on the farmer and his landlord,—to a

portion (a large one still) wrung from the hard hands of mere labour; exacted, in an exclusive manner, from the class of society that toils the hardest, and fares the meanest of any in the land. There is certainly no hope now for Religious Establishments, that they will ever resume that most profitable partnership with the merchant and the manufacturer, the fisherman and the artizan, the carrier and the victualler, which the State itself in a time of peace would not now venture to propose for itself:or that kings and nobles will be found again felicitating themselves on the purchased forgiveness of their sins, by the exchange of earthly things for heavenly,' in this way!

[ocr errors]

No:-the rich and great will be yet able to enjoy their means of self-gratification, untaxed to the priest, save by a few paltry oblations and fees of office: the princely merchant or manufacturer will yet proceed on his career to unbounded wealth, sure of meeting with no turnpike Ecclesiastical, beyond the ordinary Church-dues from a parishioner, to take from its amount by the way. The government, I conclude, not knowing what better to do for the present distress,' will now take this rump and remnant of a most odious impost, the purchase of the too easy faith of our deluded forefathers, and make of it a landmark for all posterity, fixed (firmly as the god Terminus) in the soil.

Well! to that which our lawful Rulers and Representatives are pleased to ordain for us, it becomes us (the subjects) to submit with all cheerful resignation, passively where we cannot for conscience or judgment's sake actively comply. But who shall say where this persuasion may end: or how far it may please GOD ALMIGHTY, who is just in all His ways, to suffer it to be bred in other hearts, and acted upon by other hands, when we, the descendants of the first witnesses against Tithe, shall have lost our Testimony? At all events it might be worth our while, ere we succumb to the Priest, to try to obtain the liberty of shewing what this same TITHE is and has been: how it has ground the poor to the dust, and made wives widows, and children fatherless, and wasted fair estates, and blasted civil reputations, in all other things unimpeachable, in ages but just gone by!

If, as English Quakers, we are to fall for ever under the Babylonish polity of an Establishment for the ceremonial priest; if we can by no. means here get out of the purlieus of 'that great city,' whose sins have long since reached to heaven, let us go hide our shame where we may. But if we have yet left to us moral energy and civil integrity, (to say no

more, now, of our testimony in Christ's behalf) let us shew them, by appearing with unblushing simplicity and boldness, as willing martyrs, should our God call us to it, in this noble cause. No other terms should we submit to, now no other covenant or agreement make, than that of Christ himself respecting the things of his kingdom, FREELY YE HAVE RECEIVED, FREELY GIVE! I have elsewhere stated truly my accordance, as to those who really teach and preach his doctrine, with the principle that the Labourer is worthy of his hire :—and every man, of a decent maintenance, who gives up his time to so important a public duty. I love my country, and desire to lay my bones in English dust: but I see plainly that, what law may fail in, force temporal and fraud spiritual may yet be tried to accomplish; to the breeding of confusion and distress indescribable, in society here. To those, who bring thus another gospel than the free glad message of my Lord and Saviour, I have now to say in conclusion, ME you may wear out and silence, by means and methods not to be detected by observation, or proved by evidence, or punished by the just laws of the land :—my children may have to seek elsewhere a place wherein to worship God, and serve Him and mankind, and cultivate the unity of brethren, leaving the State-priest to the short-lived enjoyment of his usurpation. Nos patrios fines [dicant] et dulcia linquimus arva. You have prevailed against us (they may say) to your own destruction: we leave you to your fate, and to our lost country the blessings and benefits she may now reap from a State Ecclesiastical establishment!' ED.

ART. II.-Remarks on the conduct and proceedings of the Yearly Meeting of 1836.

The spirit of inquiry and reform, which has travelled far and wide in all directions, has at length found its way into Friends' YEARLY MEETING; the proceedings of which, and the conduct of the speakers in it, have been of late years reported in print, and remarked upon with like freedom as those of the representatives of the people in parliament; or of the people themselves, assembled for a religious or benevolent object. It is desirable for our own sakes, and it may be expedient likewise for the sake of the great cause we advocate as a Society, that our young people should be furnished with correct views of the nature and tendency of our debates that they should neither be forbidden by their elders to criticise, out of doors, what passes in the great Folkmote of the Society, (for it has ceased to be strictly a Representative body,) nor be left to gather all they want from the columns of a newspaper; in which it stands reported

« EelmineJätka »