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Art. 1.-Yearly Meeting of 1837: Tithe and Church-rates, &c.
London, Sixth Month, 3rd. The Yearly Meeting of Friends, which sat down on the 24th ult., concluded its labours last evening: the most prominent subjects of deliberation at this time, and the manner of treating them, will be noticed (as last Year) for the satisfaction of my Christian friends.
There is no abatement of the rigour of exaction for TITHE, &c., on blour members, which may not be ascribed to accidental causes: the
amount taken from Friends in the interval now reported being Eleven Thousand, One hundred and seven pounds, Eight shillings and tenpence. The same set of Quarterly Meetings, fourteen in number, exhibits the same sort of collusion in respect of Tithe taken in kind, or without warrant, and to nearly the same amount as before the sum total this year of Tithe taken in kind is £479 98. 4d. The supineness exhibited, by the parties concerned, in this way of bearing (or eviting, rather) the
Testimony, may serve at once for an index of the general temper of - the society as regards real quakerism, and for a key to the circumstances of our now desperate case. It is clear that, but for the interference of the Legislature to commute the Tithes, we should now go on, passive or half-willing supporters of the Hierarchy, to the end of our race as a sect. The provisions of the Commutation Act do not however satisfy all our Members, as doing away the principle of Tithe; and some few distraints were reported as having taken place under the Act. It was advanced at much length by a Friend (in the Committee of the whole house, commonly called the Committee on Epistles)
that we might now bear our testimony, and yet comply with the Commutation ; but this was too much even for the approvers of the payment of Impropriate tithe, one of whom seemed to be assisting at the Table, and it was resolved to advise our members to faithfulness, in opposition to the new order of things, on the same principle as had been shown under the old. Of the three classes of our members liable to the operation of the New Act-the Landowner cultivating his land, the owner letting, and the tenant holding, it was contended that the two latter could not avoid the payment--so that it was not to be expected of the first, that he should refuse. But it was replied, that it was evident from the accounts of sufferings, that Friends had continued to prefer the passive mode of contributing this income for the clergy: and a Friend being once distrained on, the business was thus done for both parties interested in the refusal—or, a Tenant not a member having paid, the allowance by his Landlord was equivalent to a distraint on the latter; he having no way left by which to recover.
The silence of the Meeting for sufferings for more than a year past *
* That body petitioned the Commons on the subject some time before the Yearly Meeting, 1836, in the following terms :“ To the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully sheweth That the religious Society of Friends, commonly called Quakers have, from their origin, conscientiously refused the payment of the rate, called the ' Church Rate,' for which refusal they offer to Parliament the following reasons :
First. Because this Rate is exacted for the repair and upholding of buildings, wherein a mode of worship is performed to which they conscientiously object.
Secondly. Because this Rate is levied to meet the expenses of ceremonials in religion, which they believe are not in accordance with the simplicity of the Christian dispensation.
Thirdly. Because they believe that man is accountable to Christ Jesus, the Supreme Head of the church, for the exercise of his religion: and they consider it an infringement on the rights of conscience to compel the members of any Christian community to contribute, either directly or indirectly, to the support of a mode of worship from which they feel themselves constrained to dissent.
Acting upon these principles, the Society of Friends have been, and to the present day are, subjected to much grievous and vexatious suffering and loss of property : their goods being distrained to satisfy those demands; which, though often of so trfling amount, involve in the recovery of them heavy expenses.
Finding that the question of the continuance of this Rate, is about to be brought before the House of Commons, your Petitioners do respectfully, but earnestly entreat the Legislature that they will take prompt and effectual measures for the relief of tender consciences, by the abolition and utter extinction of this Rate. Such an act of Christian equity will, your Petitioners believe, advance the cause of true religion; and thus contribute to the promotion of the welfare and happiness of their beloved country.
Signed by us, Members of a Meeting appointed to represent the said religious society in Great Britain and Ireland.” [Here follow the signatures.]
London, the 14th day of the 3rd month, 1836.
The foregoing petition was presented to the House of Commons on the 20th of the 4th month, by Charles Lushington, Member for Ashburton.”
on the subject of Church-rates, not according very well with our place as Testimony-bearers against every exaction of the kind, a Friend was induced to propose in the Committee on Epistles that this meet ing should be instructed by the Yearly Meeting to proceed again to the Legislature as soon as it might find a suitable opportunity, to request our exemption from this impost; leaving the manner of doing it to the wisdom of Parliament.
A minute to that effect was accordingly taken into the Yearly Meeting. On its being read from the Table, the Friend who had originated the measure rose to support it, and entered a little into the subject on the simple ground of our Testimony: but letting the meet. ing know, in the course of what he said, that he would have preferred, but durst not hope for, the act of the Body then assembled in a petition signed by the members at large, praying also to be heard in evidence on the whole case, this view was presently substituted; and a Committee nominated to prepare the document forthwith. These Friends were about to retire for the purpose, when a Friend, in good esteem but not usually active in our proceedings, threw out a doubt whether we had not been hasty in our conclusion' in the Committee on Epistles, The hint was taken at once by the Conservatives, especially those at the Table; and so well improved by mixing up, with the simple question of our Testimony and the propriety of exhibiting it in its season, the consideration of this or that mode of relief to be expected (whether out of the Church-lease profits, or the Consolidated Fund—whether in fact by a Whig or a Tory measure that the Meeting got bewildered once more; and all ended in the never-failing and now always welcome conclusion, of referring the whole back to the discretion of the Meeting for Sufferings!
The next prominent topic was a Proposition' (as such papers are technically termed) from Westmoreland Quarterly Meeting : stating that some of their members had received the Ordinances of baptism and the Lord's supper,'-asking for the judgment of the Meeting upon such compliance, as making our members amenable, or not, to the discipline; and, in the former case, for directions how to proceed in the discipline against them.
This is one of the most important and most startling appeals, that the Meeting has had made to it within the whole range of my reinembrance. It is plainly connected with a confession, brought forth by the discussion of the Answers to the Queries, that a great number of our young Friends have been attending other places of worship’-and that, for some time past, a much larger proportion than usual, of the parties disowned or resigning membership, have gone out on religious conviction, to join other denominations of Christians. These circumstances are completely blinked by the formal short way of stating, that Meetings for worship on First and other days of the week are neglected by many of our members'-leaving the cause of the neglect to be inferred, as pleasure, or worldly mindedness, or unbelief; without a better motive appearing in any case. In some debate which ensued
CASE OF BAPTIZED FRIENDS.
nuld be) by a stroug deputation from the Yearly Meet.
learing the manner of doing 't find a suitable opportunity, to Yearly Meeting to proceed again to Committee on Epistles that this meet inst every exaction of the kind, a Friend "ch-rates, not according very well with our place
little into the
98, which had so well laid to imony against priestly and
s to let pass(this year) the
ung's place on an occasion wever before meddled with in 136, it had issued an Epistle to s,' which, for the sake of fairness, I
See Art. iii.) The opening of this document . forth by the printing and industrious circupers and pamphlets, put forth apparently for the ening the attachment of the members of our religious use views of Christian truth and practice, which have ever ventained, by Friends.' No book is pointed out, nor author ed; nor is even any heretical opinion denounced in this document:
ch, having thus formed a vague pretext (to save harmless the authothey of the Yearly Meeting), proceeds warmly to recommend things as wey now are and ever have been among us, in point of doctrine and worship, to the observance and support of our Members.
was induced to make it a question in the large Committee, whether
was a legitimate proceeding; and whether it was authorized by de constitution of the Meeting for Sufferings,' and the nature of the
ust it holds,—but was easily put down, by divers Representatives espressing their entire unity and satisfaction with it!*
key to the real meaning of this gratuitous offer of help to the stic cause may, perhaps, be found in the communications of our erican friends. In the Epistle from Ohio, our Ex-friend Elisha tes, and those who agree with him in sentiment are, not indeed by ne but plainly by reference to past proceedings, designated as per
sowing doctrine subversive of our principles, and doing the office e enemy of all good! Amidst this zeal for our traditions, there is ed also a little animosity against Christian missions—the Method