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Art. VII. Reflections on the Moral and Spiritual Claims of the Metro
polis. A Discourse delivered at the City Chapel, London, introductory to the Second Series of Lectures to Mechanics, established by the Society for promoting Christian Instruction in London and its Vicinity. With an Appendix. By John Blackburn, Minister of Claremont Chapel, Pentonville, and one of the
Secretaries of the Society. 8vo. pp. 36. Price 1s. London, 1827. SINGLE sermons scarcely come within the sphere of our
critical jurisdiction, and it would be impossible to notice a tenth part of those which are published. The present sermon, however, claims our attention, on the ground of the more than ordinary interest of the subject to which it relates. Of the existence of this Society for promoting Christian Instruction in the metropolis, we were first informed by means of the admirable tract published under its auspices, which was noticed in our last Number. It has begun its operations well; and the present sermon will be found to place in a very striking point of view, the urgent necessity and importance of a combination of well directed efforts, by means both of the press and the pulpit, such as this Society appears to have put in action, with a view to stem the progress of religious ignorance, infidelity, and licentiousness in the very heart and centre of the kingdom.
Au immense capital is, under any circumstances, an object of affecting and awful contemplation; and from the Christian philanthropist, the sight might well draw forth tears, such as his Heavenly Master shed when he looked down from Mount Olivet on Jerusalem. But, in the prodigious and portentous growth of the British metropolis within the last twenty years, there is matter for reflection of even an alarming kind. We transcribe the following statements from the Appendix to Mr. Blackburn's sermon.
• Modern London, the metropolis of the empire, includes within its gigantic bounds, two ancient cities, one borough town, and fifty villages, which, now united, stretch themselves over a site seven miles in length, and never less than two miles in width. Consequently, its ecclesiastical, municipal, and parochial divisions are irregular and involved ; and it is no easy task accurately to define its bounds, or to report ils circumstances.......... There is great difficulty in obtaining an accurate return of the various places of worship in this vast City; yet the following statement will, I believe, approach very near to the truth.
Episcopal Churches and Chapels. G 200 11"
. . . 30 be
• If we calculate that the average attendance at each place is 500 persons, which is certainly the greatest extent we can allow, and add 250 more for the fluctuating hearers at the several services of each Sabbath, it will give a result of 300,000 persons ; now the population of this wide-spread Metropolis is estimated, by the last census, at 1,274,800 souls; from which subtract the seeble minority above, and we find ninE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY FOUR THOUSAND, EIGHT HUNDRED persons neglecting the public worship of God. And though considerable deductions are to be made for young children, sick persons, and the aged and infirm, yet, after all, the multitude without even the forms of religion around us, is most appalling. The following statement will illustrate the occupations of the Sabbath : 64 It appears that of the papers at present published in London on the Sunday, there are circulated, on the lowest estimate, 45,000 copies, and that, upon the most moderate computation, between 2 and 300,000 readers of these papers are to be found in the Metro. polis alone, while the great number of pressmen, distributors, mastervenilers, hawkers, and subordinate agents of both sexes, and of all ayes, who are necessarily employed on the Sabbath, all tend to the most flagrant breach of the day of rest."
'In such a state, we cannot wonder at the report of Mr. Wontner, the excellent governor of Newgate, by which it appears, that during the year 1826, there were committed to that gaol, ..jurich
Males under 21 years of age. 1227
Being an increase of 547 commitments in the past year !! See 1. Must we not adopt the energetic language of a Clergyman of the Established Church, and say, “ Such a mine of heathenism, and consequent profligacy and danger, under the very meridian, as it is supposed, of Christian illumination, and accumulated around the very centre and heart of British prosperity, liberty, and civilization, cannot be contemplated without terror by any real and rational friend of our established government; and is surely sufficient to
awaken the anxious attention of every true patriot, every enlightened statesman, every sincere advocate of suffering humanity, every intelligent and faithful Christian.”'. . . . . . .
In a recent Number of the Evangelical Magazine, it is stated that, ' notwithstanding all that is doing, there are at least 40,000 * children in the metropolis, who are not provided for, and can• not be received into our Sunday schools. Southwark has • provided for 6000 more children than can be received into the • various places of worship. With regard to the state of attendance in the churches of the Establishment, the Rev. Mr. Stewart, Minister of Percy chapel, gives it as his opinion, that, West of Temple Bar, there would not be found more than 6000 stated communicants, out of a population of 300,000; and Mr. Blackburn adds, that,' things are worse among the Evan
gelical Disenters,' as he does not think there are 600 communicants among them, in the same direction. : . Whilst those houses of prayer, in which Charnock and Howe, Goodwin and Alsop, Ridgley and Gale ministered, have been razed to the ground, low fearfully has the Gospel been withheld or abandoned in other places where our faithful confessors once laboured! Yea, is it not a fact, that in the place where Robert Fleming, profound in learning and powerful in eloquence, proclaimed the glory of the Saviour, detected the errors of Popery, and predicted its certain destruction, that in that very place a mountebank preacher of infidelity now blas. phemes his Maker, outrages decency, and breaks the peace! May we not fear yet further desolations! Let us then deplore the neglect of one part of our duty as Apostolical churches, and pray that God will not leave us to a cold, formal, heartless Christianity."
In the meanwhile, the emissaries of Popery have not been inactive in the capital ; and the following statement will, probably, take many of our readers by surprise : it certainly calls loudly on Protestant ministers of all denominations, to lay aside their mutual jealousies, and emulate each other in the more diligent discharge of their sacred trust.
• I wish not to become an alarmist, but I think it is evident, that in. creased activity and growing numbers characterize the Roman Catholics of the Metropolis. Not to mention their zealous circulation of tracts and books, a very novel procedure with them, nor to compare the number and size of their chapels in London now, with those they occupied thirty years ago ;-I beg to submit to the reader the following statement of baptisms administered in their leading chapels for the last five years, as published in the Catholic Miscellany for March.
2376 2686 2992 3225 3499 • Their Chapels at Stratford, Bermondsey, Greenwich, Somers Town, Hampstead, Kensington, Hammersmith, and Woolwich, are omitted.
• It is supposed, by various writers on political economy, that the proportion of births to the population varies in different countries from i in 17, to 1 in 49. If, then, we take the estimate the Roman Catholics make, of thirty persons to one birth, we may, perhaps, approach to a correct average. Let, then, my readers observe, Baptisms in 1822., 2376
being an increase of 33,690 persons in five years! Will the emigration of Roman Catholics from Ireland and the Continent to this City account for this? I think by no means ' pp. 30—1.
Popery can increase only through Protestant neglect. This, we believe to be an axiom incontrovertible. It is the aftergrowth of ignorance and formality ; a moral contagion wbich becomes endemic, solely through a negligent husbandry producing a vitiated atmosphere. For the increase of Popery in the metropolis, the above details then will sufficiently account ; and they prove, what, on a larger scale, the state of Ireland proves, that the increase of papists is the crime, and shame, and punishment of Protestant secularity and indolence. But ' what is to be done ?'
• It was this question,' says Mr. Blackburn, that led to the formation of the Society for promoting Christian Instruction in London and is Vicinity, which purposes, “ irrespective of the particular denomination of Christians, to advance evangelical religion amongst the inhabitants of the Metropolis, by promoting the observance of the Lord's day; the preaching of the Gospel ; the establishment of prayer meetings and Sabbath schools; the circulation of religious tracts, accompanied with a systematic visitation; and by the establishment of gratuitous circulating libraries; with every other method which the Committee, from time to time, may approve, for the accomplishment of the great object contemplated by this Society." ' p. 23.
Upon these measures, many of them of obvious and tried efficiency, others involving considerations of some delicacy, and requiring a very watchful and judicious superintendence on the part of the Society, we shall not now offer any remark; but refer our readers to the Sermon itself for a further exposition of the philanthropic views of its institutors, and an able appeal in enforcement of the claims which its object has upon every friend of religion and the best interests of mankind in this vast metropolis. It must be through mere oversight, that, in the above enumeration, no account is taken of the labours of Bible Associations, as an efficient means of promoting Christian Instruction. To them we are indebted, more especially in London, for bringing to ligbt much unsuspected ignorance and misery which lay concealed in the dark recesses of the capital, and for giving an impulse to Christian zeal in this direction. We have reason to be assured that Mr. Blackburn is a warm friend to such Societies, and have no doubt that the Committee of the Christian Instruction Society, will both appreciate their importance, and avail themselves of such co-opetion.
We cannot dismiss the subject without adverting to another consideration of a somewhat different but not irrelevant nature. Does the determination of so large a proportion of the population to the heart or the head (call it which you please) of the political community, indicate a healthful state of the system? In other words, does the rapid growth of London arise from the increase of the national wealth, and is it to be viewed as an indication and presage of prosperity? Or does it not rather supply some cause for apprehension, that London is absorbing that wealth and population which, if more equally distributed over the country, would conduce far more to our strength and permanent prosperity as a nation, and be infinitely more advantageous to public morals and social happiness? Is it not because the funds for employing labour and maintaining trade, have been to a great extent dried up in remote and impoverished districts, that this rush of population has taken place to the great market ? Is it not something like what takes place in