HC Deb 04 March 1833 vol 16 cc115-7

Captain Spencer presented a Petition from Midhurst, praying for the Better Observance of the Sabbath.

Sir John Wrottesley

was sure that it was impossible to leave this subject now without some legislative enactment; but he hoped that enactment would not be such an extension of law as to prevent its being carried into execution. He hoped, that those who might prepare the Bill, would take care to introduce such provisions as would meet with the general concurrence of the people of this country, without which it would be impossible to have any effective law on the subject. He saw no reason why public-houses, for instance, should be open from twelve o'clock on Saturday night till one on Sunday morning. After one on the Sunday, his opinion was, that public-houses might be perfectly free to entertain persons in all the large towns who were in the habit of conducting themselves properly.

Mr. Cobbett

said, this was a question very Intimately connected with what they had previously been considering. By the returns it would be seen, that there were be- tween 200 and 300 parishes in England and wales, where the churches had been allowed to fall to the ground; upwards of 200 parishes where there were no churches; and, of course, where there were no churches there could be no service; but from those parishes the incumbents took especial care to draw the tithes. A great talk was made about the better observance of the Sabbath: would not this be the best plan to ensure it—to have worship regularly in every parish? if there were no service in a parish, what were the people to do? Why, they must either go to a methodist chapel or go nowhere. Another matter was worth attention. There were in England and Wales, in defiance of the law, in the very teeth of the law, 1,500 parishes, in which there were no parsons' houses. Now, the law says, that there shall be one in every parish, and is even so very strict, that much wrong is often done about the dilapidations; yet the law is never enforced, or enforced so badly, that as the Returns will show, there are upwards of 1,500 parishes, in which not the vestige of a parson's house is to be seen. Thus the shepherds abandoned their flocks, but they took especial care that they did not abandon the wool—they regularly gathered it. In the language of Ezekiel, it might well be said: "Woe be to the shepherds," not of Israel, but of England, Ireland, and Wales, "that do feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye cat the fat, and ye clothe ye with the wool, ye kill them that are fed, but ye feed not the flock." And should they not be punished? Yes, they should; for very soon must Parliament take from them the fleece and the fat. Not much longer would they have the fat and the fleece to live upon, and that would be to them a sore punishment.

Sir Harry Verney

observed, that he could not allow the present opportunity to pass, without stating, that in order to give confidence to the country on the subject now under consideration, the principle ought to be stated on which the House was prepared to legislate on this subject. That principle ought to be that which every good christian would advocate—namely, the due observance of the Sabbath. However much the dissenting clergy might be valued, he felt no hesitation in saying, that the clergy of the Church of England were the most valuable class of persons in the country. A pious clergyman living among his parishioners, and feeding his flock, not only taking their wool, but giving them religious sustenance, belonged to a most valuable and important class. In all parts of England where he had been, where a clergyman lived among his parishioners, he did more to preserve order in society than any other person.

Mr. Harvey

did not intend to occupy the House many minutes, the question involved so many important considerations as to render it impossible properly to discuss it at the present moment. He had, however, heard some observations which he felt compelled to notice: the remarks which had been made with respect to the dissenters, by the hon. member for Oldham, he could not allow to pass without entering his protest against them. That hon. Member had stated, that where there was no church the inhabitants either frequented the public-house, or went to the methodist chapel, as if it was little more than an alternative of evils. He attached great imprtance to these incidental discussions, as opening the eyes of the public and of the House to the principle of Church Establishments. He was surprised the other night, at the manner in which Gentlemen received an observation he had made upon that subject. It appeared as if they did not understand the great distinction between the Church and an establishment. An establishment might be Christian or Mahometan. All establishments were intended to support a particular system of religion, and might be abolished or not, as the State thought fit. But the Church, in its large and scriptural sense, meant the Christian religion, and would stand if the Establishment were done away with, and tithes abolished. If the Christian Church were thrown upon the good feeling and spiritual desire of the nation, if it were dispensed from all earthly rights, he conscientiously believed, that it would be supported as well as, or better than, it was now. The experience of all ages proved, that from the earliest dawn of Christianity to the present hour, it had flourished in greater purity and vigour when unconnected with the State, than when supported by it.

Sir Harry Verney

wished it to be understood, that he had not meant to speak in terms of disrespect of the dissenters, but merely when there was an evident attempt to depreciate the services of the Church of England, to defend its ministers.

Petition laid on the Table.