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The Secretary then read the following
Your Committee present their Eleventh Annual Report, under circumstances of unusual interest and importance.
In doing so, they desire to ascribe, in the first place, all praise and glory to him from whom alone good works proceed, for the degree of blessing which has rested upon this Association, in its efforts to arouse the dormant Protestantism of the empire; and to present a rallying point for those who are united in principle, and resolved to defend the Protestant institutions of their country.
Then with reference to the past: it seems desirable to point out, for the encouragement of Protestants to renewed and increasing efforts at this crisis, not only what was the position of affairs in this country as affecting our national Protestantism at the period when this Institution was formed, but briefly to review the progress of events, mind, and feeling, prior to that period.
The Reformation in this country was a religious work; and the principles which led to the settlement of the constitution, in 1688, were evolved from those religious principles which had led to the Reformation.
With reference to theology and politics, those principles were the supremacy of God's written Word, and the doctrines taught by it, over all the inventions and traditions of men, on the one hand; and on the other, the independence of the British Church, and Crown, and people, of all foreign interference, whether civil or ecclesiastical.
We deserted, practically, the principles of the Reformation before those of 1688 were invaded. The religious principles which animated our Reformers seemed to be forgotten, or lost sight of, even in the commencement of the last century; and a Protestantism savouring more of political partizanship feebly supplied its place.
The spirit of the Reformation seemed to have fled, awhile, with the departed Reformers.
Instead of seeking the conversion of Ireland by a wide circulation of the Scriptures, and having, there, an efficient ministerial agency of spirituallyminded men amongst the people, that unhappy country was oppressed with laws that were not good. Church preferment was bestowed more as a reward for personal and political services, than with a view to the salvation of the souls of men by a faithful preaching of the Gospel, and setting forth the truth in love; "as the truth is in Jesus."
In the retributive providence of God, an ill-governed people are oftentimes made the scourge of those who have misgoverned them; and England, having, in the year 1172, forced Popery upon Ireland, where the peculiar errors of Romanism were before unknown, and having neglected the spiritual instruction of that people, at the Reformation and since, and having, by the Maynooth Act of 1795, and more particularly by various enactments of the last ten or twenty years, given her direct aid and sanction to Popery there, is now suffering from the calamitous state of that country; and it would seem as if Ireland was to be a rod of vengeance, and a scourge, for a time, to England, threatening the infliction of Popery, and other fearful evils, upon this country; unless we, as a nation, repent, and retrace those steps by which we have deviated from a sound and scriptural policy.
With reference to the Maynooth Act of 1795, there were many conspiring circumstances which led to that measure, and seemed, on the ground of expediency, to render it plausible.
The revolutionary wars were raging on the continent; and, to prevent the spread and influence of those principles in Ireland, it was thought expedient to have a home-educated priesthood. The remembrance of the past evils of Popery was forgotten; any future evils from a system that seemed at its last gasp do not appear to have been apprehended; and, as it did not seem calculated to be politically injurious, principle was deserted for expediency, and the supposed good of the nation preferred to the honour of God.
Then came in 1829 that blow and severe discouragement to Protestantism, which seemed for a while to paralyze the whole of the Protestant party.
Protestants had neglected their duty; and they suffered for it. They had relied more on Act of Parliament securities than the maintaining of those living principles which alone could impart life and energy. The people, however, were not a consenting party to that measure.
In the state of the public mind and feeling, now glanced at, rather than described, the Reformation Society and the Protestant Association were called into existence. Men of faith, and prayer, and energy, were raised up to vindicate the religious principles of the Reformation and the political principles of the constitution as settled in 1688.
Their work was one of magnitude and difficulty. The embankments thrown up to keep off the flood of Popery had been broken down; Protestant securities were gradually diminishing, and ceasing to be held of that sacred importance which once attached to them. Principles were to be resorted to. But it was found, unhappily, that comparatively few were alive to the nature of those principles, and fewer still prepared to act upon them.
The sleeping foe had been disregarded, though he slumbered with his armour on; till, rising up like a mighty man in his strength, armed at all points, and refreshed from repose, he made too easy a prey of those who had disregarded him.
To add to the difficulties of this movement, Tractarianism was permitted to rear its head.
There was much of a specious and captivating nature about it to conciliate many of our Churchmen uninfluenced by the saving principles of Divine truth, and lead them to view with friendliness that movement which, like a bright exhalation, rose up before them.
The wild principles of reckless infidelity, and scoffing at sacred things, contending for the destruction of our Constitution, both in Church and State, led many to hail Tractarianism as a genial star, beneath whose auspicious influence a more favourable state of things might be expected. But time and investigation have dissipated these dreams — have shown that Popery and Tractarianism originate at the same source, and lead to the same end.
Many have bitterly repented of that delusion which led first to inactivity as regarded maintaining Protestantism, and next to activity on behalf of Rome; whilst others, attracted by the glitter of that wandering star, have followed its meteor gleam till it has led them to apostatize from the faith, from the scriptural light of Protestantism, to the dark traditionary religion of Rome.
Such was the aspect of affairs in the country at the period referred to. Many were afraid to move. Others knew not in what direction to proceed, and gladly availed themselves of the silence, or the uncertain sound of the ecclesiastical trumpet, to excuse themselves from coming forth to the battle.
Whilst all these things tended to dishearten, whilst they tended to render the Society unpopular, and to deprive its friends of that extensive and cordial co-operation by which they hoped to have made their movement effectual, the Protestant Association still proceeded, and has received frequent assurance of the benefit accomplished through the intervention of this and kindred Institutions. Societies have been formed; sermons have been preached; meetings held, or lectures given on various occasions and subjects, in many of the towns of England, Scotland, and Ireland, by distinguished persons; men alike eminent for their piety, talents, energy, and learning, whose names it were here long, too long, to mention. Thus Protestant Associations, despised as they have been pretended to be by some, have yet, both in England and Ireland, by organizing Protestantism, given it a voice and influence which it might not otherwise have possessed; so much so, that even the present head of Her Majesty's Government, Lord John Russell, when speaking of the reasons why he did not, at the present time, intend to move for the endowment of the Romish priesthood in Ireland, gave, as one reason, the opposition testified by the Protestant Association in Dublin.
In Liverpool, too, the Protestant feeling, organized and expressed through that organization, has commanded attention from those who might otherwise have disregarded it. In Manchester not less energy has been displayed; and the open avowal by a noble lord of his intention to aid in the extinguishment of Protestantism by endowing Popery, had such an effect upon the truly Protestant spirit of many of the electors of that borough who valued a free Bible above free trade, that Lord Lincoln found he could not make way, and therefore retired. Why should not each constituency do the same? They have the power, if they have the will, to do so.
Your Committee have not only at various times petitioned for the restoration of the Protestant character of the British Constitution, against the endowment of Maynooth, &c., &c., but have also, as evinced by their Annual Reports and other papers, strenuously opposed the various measures which have been brought into Parliament in favour of Popery, and may now congratulate their friends upon the defeat of Mr. Watson's Bill in favour of Popery.
The Protestant public, however, have seen the little use of Petitions, and the little weight attached to them by the House of Commons. Your Committee, therefore, whilst they have not been indifferent to the subject of Petitions, have directed their attention, and that of their friends, to the importance of the approaching election, and endeavoured to induce Protestants to oppose by their votes on the hustings, as well as by their Petitions to Parliament, all measures tending to advance the cause of Popery, and to impair the Protestant institutions of our country.
The Bill of 1829 took the nation by surprise, and it is a matter of congratulation that, however deserted or betrayed by their leaders, the people of this country have never expressed their approval of that measure.
So, too, in the late Act for endowing Maynooth College, 1845, and compelling Protestants to support the idolatries of Popery, more than 10,000 Petitions were presented, and more than one million and a quarter of people protested.
The Committee, from these facts, venture to indulge the hope that, though the leaders have thus betrayed, yet the people, protesting and struggling against the crime, may be instrumental in retrieving those errors, and escape the punishment they might of course expect.
The approaching election will test their sincerity, and show how far those who signed against Popery are prepared to vote against those who have voted, or will vote, in favour of it.
AGENCY, MEETINGS, LECTURES, AND PUBLICATIONS.
On the first of these points your Committee have to report, that they have not yet been able to secure the services of an efficient person whose time might be exclusively devoted to the work of advocating the cause which the Society is most anxious to promote.
They have, therefore, availed themselves of the offer of their Secretary to devote such of his time as could be given from duties in town, to attend Meetings and deliver lectures throughout the country.
He has, accordingly, attended Meetings and given lectures in various places in London and the country during the past year, and recently two lectures in the Music-hall, Store-street, on the "Protestant Character of the British Constitution, the Encroachments of Popery, and the Duties of Protestants," which are now in course of publication.
A cheap edition of the First and Second Letter of Captain Gordon is now ready for circulation. The "Protestant Magazine" has been continued, and the Committee have taken the conduct of it into their own hands, and are happy in being able to report an increase of circulation. Each subscriber of 10s. a-year is entitled to a monthly copy of it.
Grants have been made for libraries and reading-rooms; and your Committee would suggest the importance of endeavouring to imbue the literature of the day with a more essentially Protestant tone and character.
SECESSIONS TO POPEHT.
Whilst your Committee have had to witness a few secessions to Popery in this country, where it is comparatively little known, they may congratulate their friends upon the increased number of those who, at greater hazards, have left Popery in Ireland.
The public attention has been much excited by the conduct and correspondence of Dr. Wareing and others with reference to Mr. Paley, in which it was clearly shown that mental reservation is not only held in principle, but acted on in practice to this day.
An instance of a striking character, showing the disaffectedness of some who are members of the Church of England, while in heart with the Church of Rome, occurred in the course of the past year. Some printed papers of the Association had been forwarded, amongst others, to a parish clerk in Frome, from whom the following reply was received:—
"Frome, Conversion of St. Paul, 1847.
"Sir,—I duly received your truly Protestant papers. I shall not waste much of my time in reply; it will be, perhaps, sufficient to state that I have fully made up my mind not to join in any kind of way with ' associations' of heretics and schismatics in reviling the holy Roman Church, our spiritual Mother, to whom we are undoubtedly indebted for all the good we ever received. Would that our Church were half so holy! It is, indeed, high time to speak boldly and plainly. These are days of rebuke and blasphemy, when everything that is Catholic (and therefore good) is abused and ill spoken of. It would be well if those professing to be members of the Church of England would (instead of magnifying the errors and imperfections of our Mother Church) first of all examine themselves and their own Church, and the peculiarly isolated position in which she stands from the rest of the Christian world. Is the English Church, I would venture to ask, so pure, so holy, so catholic, in allowing, as she does, alas! such lamentable goings on, such false doctrine and heresy to reign triumphant within her pale?
"With regard to the ensuing election, I acknowledge that a great deal depends upon it; I should be most happy, however, to give my support to a Catholic rather than to a member of the Protestant Association, for I firmly believe that it would be infinitely better for this country to have a Catholic rather than a Rationalistic Legislature, as it certainly portends to be. "I remain, Sir, your obedient servant,
"A. Frederick Crtjse, "Parish Clerk of Frome Selwood.
"To the Secretary of the Protestant Association."
As it did not seem clear to which of the parishes in Frome the writer was clerk, a copy of the correspondence was sent to Archdeacon Law, who, on the 6th of February, wrote back as follows:—
"Weston-super-Mare, Feb. 6, 1847.
"Sir,—I beg to acknowledge the receipt of the letter which you have addressed to me, by order of the Committee of the Protestant Association, and also the receipt of a copy of a letter written by the parish clerk of Frome.
"I am exceedingly shocked to find that letter full of sentiments and expressions which betoken estrangement from the Protestant Church of England, and attachment to the corruptions of Popery.
"I write by this post to make full inquiries into the matter.
"I have the honour to be, Sir, your faithful servant,
"To the Secretary of the Protestant Association,"
On the 1st of March the Archdeacon again wrote as follows:—
"Weston-super-Mare, March 1, 1847.
"Sir,—May I request you to inform the Committee of the Protestant Association that I have fully inquired into the case of the parish clerk of Frome Selwood, and that, in consequence of the sentiments expressed in his letter to the Committee, he is dismissed from the office which he held? "I have the honour to he, your faithful servant,
A copy of Mr. Cruse's first letter, with the following, has been, we are informed, extensively circulated in Frome, and has given rise to a correspondence published there, but which it were too long here to transcribe:—
"In consequence of the sentiments expressed in the following letter, the Rev. Charles Phillott, Vicar of Frome Selwood (under the authority of the Archdeacon of the Deanery of Frome), has dispensed with the services of Mr. A. Frederick Cruse, and forbidden him henceforth to perform any of the duties connected with the office of parish clerk.
"Frome Selwood, Feb. 26, 1847.*
From the brief review at the commencement of this Report, it will at once be seen that an Institution such as the Protestant Association must from its outset have to contend with peculiar difficulties as to finance.
But, with reference to the past year, your Committee have to report that your Society's funds have received a greater augmentation by subscriptions than the five preceding years. Their receipts also by donations, collections, and legacies, have greatly increased.
They regret, however, to report, that the funds at their disposal are very inadequate to the work and object which they have in hand, and that the Association is still in debt.
The receipts and expenditure during the past year have been—Total receipts, including balance of last year, 1,320/. 4s. 8|</. Total expenses, 1,2167. 16s. id. Leaving a balance in hand of 103/. 8s. 4</., with liabilities amounting to 350/.
The Committee desire here to observe, that the prosperity of the cause is by no means to be estimated by the amount of funds which may have come to the disposal of the London Association.
Great movements have been carried on in London and various parts of the country by large bodies not in connexion with this Association, and the funds collected by them have never formed a portion of the funds of this Association.
Whilst this Institution and the Reformation Society have been the honoured instruments of taking the lead in opposing Popery, other Societies have been heartily engaged in the work.
From the Committee of the Protestant Association originated the Central Anti-Maynooth Committee; and the Evangelical Alliance and the National Club have since come into existence:
Societies which, whether approved by all or not, have desired to be instrumental in accomplishing much good, have sought, on the one hand, to prevent the endowment of Popery, to remove the heart-burnings which had long prevailed amongst different sections of the Protestant Christian world; and, on the other, to stir up Protestants to a spirit and policy worthy the name they bear, and adequate to the crisis of the present time.
The Committee would here point out that this Society diners from nearly all the other religious Societies in the metropolis: that, whilst they receive the largest portion of their funds from branches, this Society derives scarcely anything from that source.
Parties do not like to move in opposition to Popery till some local cause arises, and then employ the whole of their funds, or nearly so, in local operations. So that, from those places where Protestant zeal, energy, and