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From the Reverend RABSHAKEH GATHERCOAL
to L. S. E.
We are getting into the very thick of the battle now-Mervyn's Lecture has excited the schismatics to a high degree of impudence, Timson the bookseller told me yesterday that if I cannot answer it, and that very satisfactorily, he shall be obliged to turn Non-conformist; for as I insist now on communion with the Church on these high grounds, and will not let matters alone, (a phrase with this sort of people,) he must make up his mind to a decision whether these high grounds are tenable; and for the present he thinks the argument all against me.
Widow Braithwaite, who has made a handsome fortune by carrying on her husband's business of draper, and is now retiring from trade, has taken a pew in Mervyn's Meeting House. I called on her to ask her reasons for leaving the Church, and hoped she was not so weak as to mind the shallow arguments of a schismatical lecture: she replied that my sermon had made her a Dissenter; that she did not hear Mervyn's lecture; but now that she had seen it in print, it had confirmed her in her determination. I saw Beverley's letter to the Archbishop of York on her table, but I made no remarks,
Jane is daily more melancholy: we scarcely ever speak a word to one another. Some sad thing will turn out here, I am certain. In addition to this, I have received of late many letters from my Nephew* Frank, which show that his mind is taking a wrong turn. It appears to me that all the evil spirits of Beelzebub are let loose in the land; every one now seems inquiring about these matters, and seeking for arguments to leave our Apostolical Church. Frank's letters I send for your perusal, they will speak for themselves. I insisted on his being confirmed by the Bishop of Ely, and he did at last unwillingly obey me.
Indeed I told him plainly that we would remove him from the University if he did not please me on this point; and as I know he is very ambitious to distinguish himself, this was a blow at his favourite hope which he could not resist. If it was not for this miserable tendency to schism, we might rejoice in the lad, for they tell me at Cambridge he is sure to get high honours. On the other hand, however, as a set-off against these untoward circumstances, I have the applause of the Clergy, and the promises of the Bishop of L-, and the assurance from his lordship that my sermon contains much sound reasoning. I am daily receiving letters from clergymen wholly unknown to me in various parts of the kingdom; they tell me I have given a blow to the hydra of schism from which it will never
* This young gentleman, son of Rabshakeh's sister, was sent to Athanasian College, Cambridge, by his two uncles,who paid for his education, on condition that he should renounce dissent, and in due time take Deacon's orders. The senti. ments of this youth will be seen by what follows. His fa. ther was a churchınan, and his mother a dissenter.-Ev.
One or two in this neighbourhood deprecate my system, and predict nothing but evil from the course I am pursuing; but Dr. Birch tells me not to mind their croaking, or, if I feel any misgivings, to keep before my eyes the example of Archbishop Parker, who, sooner than renounce his determination of enforcing the necessity of pontifical dresses, saw unmoved the whole Church of England deprived of the most learned and pious Clergy then existing—that great Prelate cleared the Church and Universities of all “ tender consciences;" and though for a long time England was thereby deprived of the best preachers, yet his determined and unflinching conduct preserved us the surplice, which as you know is an emblem of the “ righteousness of the Saints.” In short, dear brother, you and I have long since agreed that half measures have well nigh ruined the Church of England, and that the system of concession has brought us into the predicament in which we are now involved, and from which the Duke of Wellington will scarcely deliver us, with all his energy and brilliant talents. The repeal of the Test and Corporation Act opened the floodgates of licentiousness, and from the time of that fatal measure the waters have been pouring in upon us—the Catholic Emancipation and the Reform Bill were the breaking down of two great banks, accelerating our total ruin. Nevertheless, the case is not perhaps yet hopeless, at least it is our duty to believe so; and as long as we hold the high station of the pastors of the flock, we must not only feed the lambs, but, like Peter, “ kill and eat."
This puts me in mind of Obadiah Crabtree's sheep. I had a demand of tithes against him, to the amount of 131., and I am determined to seize some of his stock, for he has a small farm in which he takes great delight. “Good Mr. Thompson” would never take tithes of the few Quakers in the parish, though his liberality has in fact been only money put out at interest, seeing that the broadbrims have subscribed very large sums to his widow.
I ordered the constable to seize the black-faced sheep on Obadiah's lawn, and sure enough the whole company of the bleating brethren are in my paddocks, waiting for a purchaser; for we have not yet been able to raise the money by auction. The Dissenters exerted themselves to prevent any one coming forward to make an offer, and have hitherto succeeded; but we shall put up the sheep to sale again to-morrow, which is market-day; and if no one should make a bid, Stubbs declares he will himself purchase them at ten shillings ahead. In all these matters I am acting under the advice of Mr. Scrope, the Rector of Amberwell, the leading magistrate of these parts, who is well read in Ecclesiastical as well as in statute law, and who tells us to go on with the great work zealously, for he assures me that if every clergyman in England would pursue my plan schism would be extirpated in three years.
I should not forget to inform you that we expect a great stir at the sale next market-day, for my servant has just brought me in a handbill, which he says is in every one's hands. I judge by the Latin motto, and the style, that Mervyn is the author,
“ TITHE SALE.—APOSTOLICAL CHURCH,
“ Dic mihi, Damætas, cujum pecus, an Melibæi ?
Non; verum Ægonis, nuper malus abstulit Ægon."
“ Whereas Rabskakeh Gathercoal has been prelatically ordained by touch of the Parliamentary Bishops, and has sworn fealty to the metropolitical See of York, according to Act of Parliament, whereby he is a priest in the right line of succession from the Apostles; and through them is also descended from the sons of Aaron, Archbishop of Stony Arabia, so that he has thus full right and