Infant Schools and Dissenters by John Alexander










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 6th, 1836.

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, p. 6whatever 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, p. 7who 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.

p. 8The 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 p. 9upon 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 p. 10his 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 p. 11that 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 p. 12of 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 p. 13I 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 p. 14church 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.” p. 15Dissent 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 p. 16the 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. p. 17He 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 p. 18part, 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 p. 19say 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. p. 20John’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 p. 21the 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 p. 22this 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 p. 23already. 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 p. 24right 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 p. 25Churchmen 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 p. 26Mr. 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 p. 27should 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 p. 28in 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 p. 29give 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 p. 30Mr. 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 p. 31a 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 p. 32“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 p. 33ought 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 p. 34his “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. p. 35He 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.”

p. 36I 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.



[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.”