15 MAY 1880, Page 11



Silt,—As a clergyman who has always voted for the Liberals, mainly because I believe that the general interests of the country, foreign and domestic, are safest in Liberal hands, permit me to comment upon your remarks on the Clergy and Politics in relation to the late General Election. I share with you con- siderable regret that the clergy should in so many instances think more of the "material interests of the Church than of all other moral and political principles." But, surely, in the face of the late election, and the multitude of considerations and side issues which were brought forward to influence the interests and passions of voters, it seems a little hard that you should single out the clergy, in company with the publicans, alone for censure. You do not, I hope, deny that the clergy have a right to exercise their votes, like other people, in accord- ance with their own sentiments, and it may lawfully seem to some of them that the Churchyard question is of vital import- ance to the existence of the Church. I do not think so myself, as I am in accordance with my party on this and most other questions. But I do not like to see a right which is freely ad- mitted when Liberals are concerned denied to Conservative Churchmen. I am aware that a very high compliment is paid to the Church when a loftier tone of morals and politics is demanded of Churchmen than of all others. I do not at all complain when I observe that actions and language of the most innocent character, when employed by Churchmen, are bitterly resented and held up to reprobation, while far more cruel language on the part of anti-Churchmen is regarded as quite fair and honourable. I confess I do not like to see the growing intolerance and narrowness, begotten of an unfortunate but necessary alliance of Liberalism with Pharisaic Dissent and a vindictive type of atheism, from which a portion of the Liberal party is now suffering. I do not like to see, certainly not amongst Liberals, the too prevalent habit of questioning the motives and defaming the characters of worthy and excellent men, merely because they happen to be Conservatives and Church- men. I am ashamed of the Liberalism which sees in every Conservative a "rabid Tory," in every " Tory " a disciple of "Jingo," and in every Church parson a "black-coated criminal." There are Dissenters and Dissenters, just as there are Churchmen and Churchmen, and my circumstances have not brought me into contact with Dissenters of the highest type. My knowledge and experience of Noncon- formity may be unusual and unfortunate, but I am bound to confess that I have always found the highest types of Liberalism amongst Liberal Churchmen. May not the clergy be in some degree excused, if they are too ready to rush into the arms of Conservatism, when we remember that the ordinary Nonconformist always puts the Church question, in its most offensive phase, before everything else in polities ? In the last election, was not the burials question (witness a most exaggerated and needlessly offensive caricature extensively circulated by the Liberation Society) made a test question by Nonconformists in every contest ? I happen to know that in an important town in Kent several votes were lost to the Liberal cause in consequence of an inflammatory speech by a Dissenting minister (from a distance), who asserted that "the gates of the

Churchyard were shut against the Nonconformist dead, whom the clergy would like to bury in dung-heaps and ditches !" Only that very day a Dissenter had been honourably buried in the parish churchyard, and the clergyman, who conducted the service at the desire of the friends of the deceased, had per- mitted two Methodist hymns to be sung by the grave's side ! Imagine the disgust of many even ardent Liberals at this wanton libel. Things like these prove that an important section of the Liberal party does its very best to prevent the clergy from becoming Liberals ; nor do I know that a parson is any the more respected by Nonconformists because he is a Liberal. I begin to think that, with most Nonconformists, nothing that a parson can do is right.

"Dissent has many faults, but Churchmen only two,— There's nothing right they ever say, there's nothing right they do."

Are not the clergy commonly judged by quite another than a political standard, so that the Liberal parson is usually often valued at a very low rate by his Nonconformist parishioners.

And now a word on the Burials' Bill of Mr. Osborne Mor- gan. I, for one, hope to see it, in an amended form, become law during the present Session; but permit me to say that in its present form it is conceived entirely upon the principle of liberty for every one, except the conscientious and faithful Churchman! It is absurd to say that it is objectionable to the clergy, because it allows the "Dissenting minister to enter the Churchyard with a hymn-book in his hand and a text of Scripture on his tongue." It allows a great deal more ; it gives liberty to every form of belief, or no belief, from Romanism to Secularism, pure and simple ; but it ties down the clergyman to what Nonconformists call "the dead form," and it gives him no liberty whatever in the case of those who have neither moral nor truly legal right to Christian burial. Personally, I look upon our Burial Ser- vice as a service of charity, which may be safely used over' all; but there are conscientious clergymen who think otherwise, and Dissenting literature is full of the ridicule of the Church and the Clergy on account of the indiscriminate use of this Service. It is certainly not to the credit of the Dissenters in this matter that, while claiming perfect liberty for themselves, they have hitherto treated with scorn every attempt of the clergy to be relieved from a great and grievous burden. May not some Churchmen be excused if, borrowing weapons from their enemies' armoury, they say, with Mr. Matthew Arnold, "The Noncon- formists have been too often the friends of toleration and liberty of conscience, only to secure toleration for themselves." The liberty they ask for themselves they are not always prepared to accord to others, and the loudly professed friends of the right of private judgment and freedom of conscience are too often the most cruel and vindictive bigots in the whole world.—I am,