FRANCIS & JOHN RIVINGTON,
ST. PAUL'S CHURCH YARD, AND WATERLOO PLACE.
"LADY OLIVIA BERNARD SPARROW has felt herself compelled, by recent circumstances, to state in a letter her reasons for withdrawing the Schools at Leigh from the pastoral care of the REV. ROBERT EDEN."
To which letter Mr. Eden feels it necessary to reply:--
Her Ladyship's reasons, as stated in her letter, are these: first, "her conviction of the unscriptural character of Mr. Eden's religious views;" and, secondly, her "fears, nay her belief," as she says, "that Mr. Eden's views are essentially the same with those which have led so many from the Church of England to that of Rome."
Heavy charges these, my friends, to be brought against Mr. Eden by a lady residing some 200 miles from Leigh, and who never heard Mr. Eden preach in her life! Heavy charges indeed to be brought against a Clergyman of the Church of England--that his views of religion are not in accordance with Holy Scripture, but essentially such as will be likely to lead his people to Rome! Why, what have the officers of the Church been about, or what have the whole people of Leigh been about, that they could have suffered Mr. Eden to have gone on teaching them for ten years, without finding out that his views were unscriptural; or without (as they ought to have done, if such were really the case) proving before the Bishop this fearful charge? [3/4] Are they, who have so long heard and known the doctrine he has taught, unable to form an opinion? or is it to be charged against them that there is not one among them who has sufficient value for his own soul, or sufficient moral courage to take the proper steps for silencing and degrading, if guilty, such an "unscriptural" and "Romanizing" Clergyman?
But if his own parishioners have not arrived at the same conviction concerning Mr. Eden's "unscriptural" and Romanizing views as Lady Olivia Sparrow, let us ask, on what authority are these things laid to his charge by her Ladyship, who confessedly has never heard him? Mr. Eden naturally asks, "Who are these false witnesses?" and Mr. Eden's parishioners ask the same question. Should it ever be answered, Mr. Eden and his parishioners will be able to determine how far her Ladyship was justified in condemning a Clergyman upon such testimony.
But when we come to ask, for what purpose are these things laid to Mr. Eden's charge, the answer is at hand:-- for the purpose of so destroying Mr. Eden's influence with his parishioners, as to induce them to send their children to Lady Olivia Sparrow's Schools, and not to his. With regard to her Schools, her Ladyship states, that "her value for the truths upheld by the Church of England, and the preservation of some, at least, of the children from the errors of Popery," have induced her to maintain them in opposition to Mr. Eden. Now, here her Ladyship implies, with some little want of Christian charity, that none of the other children who attend Mr. Eden's Schools will be preserved from "the errors of Popery;" and she implies, moreover, that Mr. Eden does not "value," as she does, "the truths upheld by the Church of England." But if her Ladyship does so "value the truths upheld by the Church of England," and calls her Schools "Church" Schools, and professes therefore to train the children therein as members of the "Church," why did she appoint a master who attended, preached at, and, it is said, communicated at Dissenting Meeting-houses? or, how is it that none of her present teachers so exhibit their value of, or reverence [4/5] for, the ordinances of the Church of England as to be communicants? But if Mr. Eden is told that her Ladyship requires the children of her Schools to attend Church on Sundays, he is compelled to ask upon what principle her Ladyship can require this, when she tells them in her letter, what no doubt the master tells them in their school, that their Clergyman's views of religion are unscriptural: and so these poor children are literally compelled to hear doctrine from their Clergyman on Sunday, which their patroness tells them is "unscriptural." Is this kind towards these children? or will it tend to create in their minds reverence for the Ministers of Christ? [In speaking thus, Mr. Eden is arguing only in accordance with the views of persons generally of Lady Olivia Sparrow's way of thinking, who attach much more importance to the Sermon than to the Prayers of the Church. Mr. Eden thinks Lady Olivia is quite right to require the children to attend Church, hut it appears to him inconsistent to compel children to hear unscriptural doctrine without taking some steps to prevent so great an evil.]
As regards her Ladyship's charitable fear lest the children in Mr. Eden's Schools should imbibe "the errors of Popery," he is happy in thinking that in a very few weeks their parents will have an opportunity of judging of their religious instruction, as one of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools is coming to examine the children, when Mr. Eden hopes that as many of the parents as are able will make a point of attending the examination. Mr. Eden will challenge the most searching examination on this head.
We may form some notion of the nature of the grounds upon which persons arrive at certain convictions, by examining the points which, they say, have confirmed or strengthened these convictions. Lady Olivia Sparrow had attained to a "conviction of the unscriptural character of Mr. Eden's religious views." Her Ladyship does not tell us upon what grounds or on what authority she arrived at this conviction; but she does tell us what facts have confirmed her in this conviction. It is therefore quite worth while for Mr. Eden to direct the attention of his parishioners to them.
They are, as stated by her Ladyship, as follows: First, [5/6] "His mode of conducting the ceremony of laying the first stone of his new Schools." Secondly, "And yet more, the tone of his address on that occasion;" and of his sermon "on the following Sunday, at church," wherein "the Church's voice was described as God's voice."
Mr. Eden will remind his parishioners of his mode of conducting the ceremony of laying the first stone of his new Schools, and perhaps they will be as much surprised as he was at finding that there was any thing in it which could leave an impression of Mr. Eden's unscriptural views of religion. The ceremony may be said to have commenced with Divine Service, a sermon, and the Communion in Church. Then a procession was formed, which walked to the spot where the stone was to be laid; a custom, on such occasions, almost universal in the Church of England. During the ceremony three of David's Psalms were chanted, a passage from Holy Scripture was read, a few Collects from the Prayer Book were offered up, and the blessing was given. This, as far as the religious part of the ceremony is concerned, was the mode of laying the first stone. What part of it could convey an impression of the "unscriptural character of Mr. Eden's religious views?" A procession, we know, is not unscriptural; for in this way was the ark of the Lord conveyed by David to Mount Sion. We know from Holy Scripture that David's Psalms were chanted. Reading Scripture and offering up prayers from the Prayer Book her Ladyship will not call unscriptural. Mr. Eden's imagination can picture nothing to him in all this which could have given offence to Lady Olivia Sparrow. The black gowns which the Clergy wore who were so good as to be present on the occasion, and the surplices which Mr. Eden and his Curate wore, have been suggested as probable causes of offence; but Mr. Eden will not insult Lady Olivia Sparrow by thinking that she could see any thing unscriptural in the ordinary dress of the Clergy. Thus much then for Mr. Eden's mode of conducting the ceremony of laying the first stone of his new Schools.
We now come to "the tone of his Address on that occasion," which, her Ladyship says, "yet more confirmed her in [6/7] her conviction" of Mr. Eden's unscriptural views. Mr. Eden's wish was to allude as briefly as he could, consistently on such an occasion, to the circumstances which had led to the building his Schools; his sincere wish was to do justice to the motives of Lady Olivia Sparrow, while he considered her views mistaken, and her conduct schismatical; and he believes those who heard him will acquit him of having uttered one syllable which could be regarded as disrespectful to her Ladyship. If "the tone" of his address expressed at all his feelings on the occasion, it was serious; it was thankful; and he hopes respectful towards one who was wronging and opposing him. But in what way "the tone of his address" can be distorted into a confirmation of any unscriptural views which he is charged with holding, Mr. Eden is utterly at a loss to conceive. And, after reading again and again the very accurate report of it (made from memory by one who heard it, for there was no reporter,) he is equally unable to discover any thing in the substance of the Address capable of a similar distortion.
We have now, in the last place, to consider the Sermon which Mr. Eden preached on the following Sunday, and of which Lady Olivia Sparrow says that it too "yet more confirmed her conviction of the unscriptural character of Mr. Eden's religious views." Now this Sermon Lady Olivia Sparrow did not hear. She read Mr. Eden's Address, and of it might form her opinion; but the Sermon she did not hear. Somebody has written to her Ladyship about it, and, as will be seen by looking at her letter, she quotes a passage from her correspondent's letter. Speaking of the Sermon, the writer says, "The Church's voice was described as the voice of God." From which expression Lady Olivia concludes,--without, be it observed, having heard the Sermon, or knowing any thing of the context, or of the sense in which Mr. Eden used the expression; but simply from this expression itself as conveyed to her by her correspondent, her Ladyship concludes that Mr. Eden "in reality set aside the authority of the Word of God!" What a monstrous conclusion! What an unwarranted charge! But Mr. Eden never thought and never said that "the voice of the Church [7/8] was the voice of God," if the Church required "any thing to be believed as an article of faith, or requisite or necessary to salvation, which was not read in Holy Scripture or which might be proved thereby," as is declared by the Sixth Article of the Church, which Lady Olivia quotes. But it is because Mr. Eden believes the voice of the Church of England to be so purely Scriptural, and so entirely in accordance with the Word of God, that he used the expression. How then can her Ladyship venture to charge upon Mr. Eden from this expression, which her Ladyship must admit to be perfectly true if the Church speaks according to God's revealed Word, that he "sets aside the authority of the Word of God." She condemns the tone of a Sermon which she did not hear; she fixes upon a single expression in that Sermon apart from its context, which her ignorant correspondent evidently did not understand, and without hesitation charges Mr. Eden with "setting aside the authority of the "Word of God," and upon such evidence as this suffers herself to draw increased conviction of the "unscriptural character of Mr. Eden's religious views!" Mr. Eden and his parishioners can only hope, as indeed they believe, that the grounds of her original conviction as to his Scriptural unsoundness are as unfounded as those which she says have confirmed it.
But now Mr. Eden will tell his parishioners, what he is sure many of them already know, what is THE REAL GROUND OF COMPLAINT against him. It is simply this:--Mr Eden believes, and Mr. Eden teaches, what both Holy Scripture and the Prayer Book teach, THE DOCTRINE OF BAPTISMAL REGENERATION. Whenever Mr. Eden baptizes a child, he "thanks God," in the words of the Prayer Book, "that it hath pleased God to regenerate that child with His Holy Spirit." Every Clergyman does the same for EVERY child that he baptizes. And the complaint against Mr. Eden is, that he will say the same thing in the PULPIT that he has said AT THE FONT! If this is unscriptural, the Church of England is unscriptural; for she teaches this doctrine in words and language so plain that no child even can mistake her meaning. But Lady Olivia Sparrow says that she [8/9] believes, as does Mr. Eden, that the Church of England is truly Scriptural. If the Church be so, and thus teaches the doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration, why then the doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration is Scriptural? Many years ago, the Dissenters wished the Bishops to alter the words in the Baptismal Service, because, they said, the words implied that every child who was baptized by a Clergyman of the Church of England was really regenerated in Baptism. The Bishops refused to alter the words, because, they said, the Church did believe that every child so baptized was regenerated in Baptism. Mr. Eden believes, teaches, and will teach the same doctrine; and this, he believes, is the real ground of Lady Olivia Sparrow's "conviction of the unscriptural character of Mr. Eden's religious views." But Mr. Eden further believes, that if his parishioners found him saying one thing at the font, and another thing in the pulpit, they would think him a very dishonest man; and Mr. Eden thinks they would be quite right.
In conclusion, one word about Mr. Eden's leading the children of his Schools into "the errors of popery;" and that "his views arc essentially the same with those which have led so many from the Church of England to that of Rome." Now, in spite of Mr. Eden's former denial of this charge, Lady Olivia Sparrow does not hesitate to repeat it: it would be wasting words again to deny it. Mr. Eden, therefore, will only now state the following remarkable facts; and then his parishioners, whether Churchmen or Dissenters, will judge between Mr. Eden and Lady Olivia Sparrow, and determine which of the two is leading the children of this place into "the errors of popery."
Many persons, both clergymen and laymen, have fallen away during the last few years into the errors of popery, arid many more in late and former years into the errors of Protestant dissent. Now, we all know how much of the strength of religious principle depends, through the grace of God, upon the nature of early training. If the early principles are sound, they are likely to be lasting; if not sound, persons are liable in after years to be "carried [9/10] away with every wind of vain doctrine." Now, Mr. Eden begs his parishioners to weigh deeply this FACT. THE GREATER NUMBER by far of all those persons who have of late years left the Church of England, and joined the Church of Rome, BEGAN their religious course by adopting what are called "LOW CHURCH" views of religion--those very views and opinions which are now being taught in Lady Olivia Sparrow's Schools! The want of sound definite Church instruction--the neglect of duly impressing that article of the Church's creed, "I believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church;" and of enforcing the sinfulness of leaving the Church of their baptism for the sake of joining either the Church of Rome or any of the numerous Protestant dissenting sects; such defective teaching as this, must leave children or grown-up people with such extremely vague and unsettled notions of what the Church is, of the reverence due to her, and of her rightful authority over them, that at any time, but especially in times of controversy, they become an easy prey to dissent of any kind--they have no real ballast, they are "tossed with every wind of doctrine," and, at last, "make shipwreck of their faith."--And while almost all those who have joined the Church of Rome were originally "Low Churchmen," ALL those without exception who have joined the ranks of the Protestant Dissenters (and they are by far the largest number) have been "Low Churchmen." Mr. Eden therefore, in the face of these positive facts, must throw back upon Lady Olivia Sparrow the charge which she has twice so unscrupulously thrown upon him; and he asserts that the principles inculcated in her Schools have a direct tendency to leave children exposed to "the errors of popery," or to any dissenting errors, from the want of that which can alone, under God, preserve them as faithful members of the Church of England,--namely, a right knowledge of what the Catholic Church of Christ is, of what the Church of England is, and of the allegiance and duty which they owe to her as the institution and ordinance of Christ Himself. Without this they will readily pass from one extreme to the other. And so it has [10/11] come to pass, that Geneva (the cradle of Calvinism) has nursed children for Rome; in other words, the Church of Rome has gathered almost all her recent converts from amongst those who were originally "Low-Churchmen." Mr. Eden requests his parishioners never to lose sight of this fact, but to remind their neighbours of it when they hear them denouncing "High-Churchmen," as Papists, Puseyites, and Tractarians! The truth has always had enemies; and when they fail in argument, they hope to succeed by calling their opponents by hard names. Mr. Eden feels quite happy in leaving this mode of argument to his opponents.
Leigh Rectory, Sept. 15th, 1847.
Mr. Eden feels much obliged to Lady Olivia Sparrow for so kindly directing the teachers of her Schools to receive him with respect and civility, and to satisfy his inquiries with respect to the books used, &c. But her Ladyship is in error in thinking that these kind instructions have ever been acted upon. Mr. Eden felt it would be useless to visit Schools in his parish where he had no power or authority given to him, and from which he had been excluded by their Patroness. The books which Mr. Eden sent to her Ladyship, at her request, with the passages of which he disapproved marked, were books which her Ladyship had sent to the Schools before they were removed from Mr. Eden's superintendence. Since his removal, he has not entered her Ladyship's School-rooms.
Mr. Eden feels that he need make no remark with regard to her Ladyship having refused him an interview on the subject of the Schools, as her Ladyship in her printed letter admits that she declined it.
If her Ladyship would kindly state to Mr. Eden what she means by "the genuine principles of Protestantism, a return to which on Mr. Eden's part would enable her," as she is good enough to say, "to replace her Schools under the superintendence of the Pastor of the parish;" Mr. Eden would Weigh with the deepest respect and attention any such statement from her Ladyship. Will it not satisfy her Ladyship on this head, when Mr. Eden says, that he rejoices in "the Reformation" of the Church of England, and that he gives his full "assent and consent to every thing contained in the Book of Common Prayer" as set forth by the Church of England? As a member of that Church, her Ladyship can scarcely desire a stronger declaration from one of its Ministers. Or, if she wishes him to express his abhorrence of "the errors of the Church of Rome," she has her wish before it is expressed.
Mr. Eden has felt himself bound to say this, from the kind tone of the last sentence in her Ladyship's letter.