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ART. VIII. – A Narrative of a Visit to England. By
John CODMAN, D. D., One of the Deputation from the General Association of Massachusetts to the Congregational Union of England and Wales. Boston: Perkins and Marvin. 1836. 16mo. pp. 248.
THE Narrative of the Visit to the American Churches by the English Deputation, composed of Drs. Reed and Matheson, went very fully into a discussion of local topics, with which the travellers, of course, were but imperfectly acquainted, and consequently fell into not a few ludicrous blunders. But their testimony, and even their speculations, were interesting and valuable on many accounts. Dr. Codman, warned as it would seem by their example of the danger of pronouncing judgment on the customs, and institutions, and parties of a foreign country, is not likely to give much offence anywhere in this way; but his inoffensiveness is purchased at too great a sacrifice. By confining himself almost wholly to the dry details of his journey, and barren generalities, and compliments more kind than discriminating, he has made his book as unsatisfactory as it well could be, coming as it does from a gentleman and writer of so much respectability. And yet in one respect it gives us a good deal more than the titlepage promises; for we have here a narrative of a Visit not to England alone, but to Italy, Switzerland, and France, and of a flying excursion to Scotland and Wales, not originally included, we suppose, in the purview of the Delegation.
From Dr. Codman's statements we should infer that Unitarianism, under its different forms, is more prevalent among the French Protestants than we had supposed. Thus he says :
“We spent a few days in Marseilles, where we experienced much kindnesss and hospitality from several friends, to whom we brought letters of introduction. In this important French port, there is but one Protestant church, and that is supplied by three pastors, and has but one service on the Sabbath, and a catechettical lecture during the week. The doctrinal sentiments of the pastors, like those of many of the Protestant clergy in France and Switzerland, are Arian."
- 3D s. vol. 11. NO. II. 34
pp. 18, 19,
- pp. 17, 18.
Again he says:
“ A ride of two or three days, during which nothing occurred of peculiar interest, brought us to Lyons, the second city in importance in France, and distinguished for its manufacturing relations to our own country. We had letters of introduction to the Rev. Adolphus Monód, an Evangelical Protestant clergyman, who, on account of his attachment to the distinguishing doctrines of the Gospel, had been excluded from one of the churches in that city, and was now preaching to a small congregation of pious and devoted friends of truth."
Of the state of opinion in the French capital the accounts are equally encouraging, due allowances being made for his way of telling the story.
“The Protestants in Paris are not without their attractive preacher. They have two congregations, connected with the Protestant National church, one very large in the Rue St. Honoré, and a smaller one in the Rue St. Antoine. These churches are supplied by four pastors, who preach in rotation. One of them, Mr. Monod, Jr., is decidedly Evangelical, while his father, and the other two pastors, are supposed to be inclining to Arianism, if not to Socinianism. One of these, the Rev. Mr. Coqueril, who is the most decided Unitarian, is a man of very superior talents, and a most eloquent declaimer. When he preaches, the church is always crowded with a gay and fashionable congregation.” — pp. 66, 67.
Dr. Codman reached London in season to attend the anniversaries of the religious and benevolent institutions in that metropolis in the month of May, in fulfilment of the various commissions wbich he had received from similar institutions in this country. The reception which he and his co-delegate, Dr. Spring, met with from one of these associations, the Church Missionary Society, was such as to give just offence.
“We were told by some of our Dissenting brethren, that we should not be invited to speak at this meeting, as we were not churchmen; but we could not believe it, as, whatever might be the prejudices existing in this Society against Dissenters from the Established Church in England, we imagined that they could not extend to the Presbyterian and Congregational churches of our own country, much less to regularly commissioned delegates from the American Board. But it was even so. Our commissions were read in the committee room, but no other notice of us, or of the Society we had the honor to represent. We were suffered to
sit in silence on the platform, and to listen to several addresses from Noblemen, and Bishops, and other degnitaries of the Church of England." -- p. 84.
We are surprised and grieved to find how little interest is taken in the Temperance reformation by that portion of the English Dissenters especially, with whom Dr. Codman had most to do.
“ There is a strange apathy on this subject among our Dissenting brethren. Very few of them appear to be connected with Temperance societies themselves, or to encourage them in their congregations. The British and Foreign Temperance Society, which I shall have occasion to mention more particularly in another place, appears to be supported principally by members of the Established Church, and by the Society of Friends. At the anniversary of the Society, where Christians of all denominations ought to be found, I saw but one or two of those excellent Dissenting ministers whom it was my privilege to meet at the Congregational Union and on other occasions."
pp. 101, 102. It cannot be, one would suppose, from a belief that there is no call for extraordinary efforts in this cause; for, in speaking of the far-famed “gin palaces” of London, our author says:
“We were told by a friend, who stood on a Sabbath morning opposite one of these receptacles of sin and misery, watching the ingress and egress of its visitors, that he counted fifty persons, in one minute, coming out of the place, having taken their morning dram; and by another, that not less than fifty pounds sterling are sometimes taken on a Sabbath morning in one of these haunts of vice and misery, in sums not exceeding a penny. Among all the dreadful instances of intemperance that were too common in our own country, previous to the temperance reformation, nothing I think could compare with statements like these.
“I could not but be struck with the amazing difference in the habits of temperance, between those parts of the Continent which I visited during the last winter, and the British Isles. It was so rare an occurrence to meet with an instance of intoxication in the streets and roads, through which we passed in France and Italy, that I have not, at the present moment, a distinct recollection of a single individual case ; whereas I cannot number the instances of beastly intemperance I met with in the streets of London, and in different parts of the United Kingdom." — pp. 140, 141.
A custom is also mentioned by him as prevalent at their public anniversary meetings, which for its bearings on this sub
ject is not very creditable to those by whom it is countenanced and defended. On a table on the platform are placed decanters of wine, large glasses of which are handed to the speakers and others, sometimes, though not always, diluted with water. After this, many of our readers will not be surprised to learn that occurrences of a still more questionable character take place occasionally on these same platforms. Our traveller was present at the meeting of the London Missionary Society, where a subscription was opened on the spot for a special effort, and about five hundred pounds sterling collected, "some in gold, some in bank notes, and more in promissory payments on scraps of paper, handed up on the platform, with the amount subscribed, prefixed with the three vowels, i. o. u. (I owe you,) and endorsed with the name of the subscriber. The sequel is thus given.
“ While the audience were uniting in singing the doxology, at the close of the exercises, some one, who had contrived to gain admission to the platform in the disguise of a gentleman, availed himself of the opportunity, while the backs of the secretaries were turned upon the table, upon which stood the bag, containing the amount collected, to appropriate it to his own private use. The robbery was not discovered until after the assembly had separated. It proved to be less considerable than was at first apprehended, as a greater part of the amount was in notes of i. o. u., which were faithfully redeemed, and in some instances paid with more than compound interest in an increased subscription. The ultimate loss, sustained by the Society, did not exceed thirty or forty pounds." -- pp. 110, 111.
Dr. Codman's official relations, and his position in society, afforded him peculiar opportunities for becoming acquainted with the Orthodox divines of England and Scotland ; but his notions of propriety, or other reasons, have prevented him from allowing his countrymen to profit much by the advantage. Of Dr. Chalmers, however, he says, in speaking of an interview he had with him at the house of a mutual friend :
“ Much conversation ensued on the subject of the expediency of church establishments, and the inefficacy of the voluntary principle. Although I could not agree with the Doctor and his friends in their views on this subject, I was gratified in hearing what could be said in favor of the dependence of the church upon civil aid, by the most powerful and eloquent champion of this side of the question now on the stage.
“ The health of Dr. Chalmers is by no means good, and he has not attempted to preach for several months. It would not be surprising if the excitement, superinduced by the agitating controversy in which he has taken such a leading and active part, should have tended to impair his physical constitution. The course which he has adopted, although, I doubt not, from the very best and most conscientious motives, (for he is utterly incapable of any other,) while it has strengthened the hands of a party, who are far from appreciating his piety and evangelical zeal, has disappointed and grieved many of the friends of religious liberty, who love him for his attachment to the doctrines of grace, and admire the talent and eloquence with which he has so nobly defended them.”- pp. 211,212.
It is but justice to add, that, notwithstanding our disappointment in other respects, we honor the scrupulous care with which Dr. Codman has forborne to thrust the private matters of other people before the public. We still entertain the opinion that there is much in the public character of eminent individuals, and in the ever-varying phases of sects and parties, to supply legitimate topics, on which the traveller, if he writes at all, may be fairly expected to give the public some new and valuable information. But, if we cannot have this without the flippancy, the retailing of idle gossip and of conversations never intended for the public ear, or those more serious betrayals of confidence which so frequently occur in the writings of modern tourists, give us in preference the cautious and well-bred reserve of our author, though it leaves him but little to tell which every body did not know before.
NOTICES AND INTELLIGENCE.
The Works of William ELLERY CHANNING, D. D. Glasgow : James Hedderwick & Son. 1835. 2 Vols. 16mo. pp. 466 and 500. - We hardly know in what terms to speak of this edition of Dr. Channing's writings, the second which has appeared in Great Britain. Of the publishers and their objects all our information is gathered from the short Advertisement prefixed to the first volume; from which it would appear that they yield to none in their admiration of the genius and character of the “great American classic," and that their principal motive in sending this edition to press was “ to extend the range of his usefulness by