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of the liberty afforded to render a much needed service to his generation
Thirty years had elapsed since the Restoration, during which period, as it seemed to him, the reading of the Bible had been much neglected, parental teaching and family prayer had fallen into disuse, the practice of public and private catechising had been largely discontinued, owing in part to the repression of Puritan ministers, while many of the conforming clergy “cared for none of these things"; ignorance of the Scriptures abounded; piety declined, and indifference and immorality increased.
Writing a little later (1713) Bishop Burnet remarked : “The outward state of things is black enough, God knows, but that which excites my fears is the inward condition into which the Church has unhappily fallen. None but those who are obliged to know it can adequately comprehend the religious ignorance of those who present themselves for ordination; they are strangers to the plainest facts of Scripture, which they say, in excuse for their ignorance, their tutors in the Universities had never mentioned the reading of them, so that they could give no account, or a very imperfect one, of the contents of the Gospel.”
Lord Wharton desired to effect, as far as he could, an improvement of such a state of things. He himself reverenced the Bible as the Word of God, and felt convinced of its “truth, usefulness, sufficiency, and excellency"; and observing great numbers of young persons growing up in ignorance of it, and without possessing a copy of the sacred volume, he appropriated the rents of one of his estates to its free distribution among them, and conveyed the same to trustees for that purpose.
In order to ensure their diligent reading of it, and to promote their instruction in “the grounds and principles of the Christian religion," as set forth in the Catechism generally used by Nonconformists in their families and congregations, he also, after much
devised the plan of appointing certain persons who sympathised with his purpose, especially Protestant Dissenting ministers, than whom none appeared to him more likely to carry it out effectually: (1) who should select poor children in certain specified places, and put into their hands the Assembly's Catechism and the Bible; (2) who should, on ascertaining in the following year their proficiency in reading it, and in repeating certain Psalms, present to one child found most proficient in every ten two other useful books as a reward ; (3) who should also at the same time give to the parent of every such child one shilling as an inducement to further religious instruction in the family; and (4) who should preach a sermon on the Holy Scriptures and offer extempore prayers before and after it, according to the manner of the Nonconformists, such persons being themselves compensated for their
their trouble in the matter.
Parents were thus encouraged to give religious instruction to their children, properly qualified persons to examine them, and ministers to stimulate increased regard for the Bible; whilst Catechisms and Bibles were to be presented to those who were likely to make a proper use of them. It must not be forgotten that this was long before Sunday-schools were instituted, or any Bible Society had been formed. Something was done soon afterwards by the Christian Knowledge Society (1698) and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (1701) in the way of disseminating Bibles and Testaments; but the English and Foreign Bible Society was not begun till a century later."
Lord Wharton's example in providing for the distribution of Bibles may have stimulated the liberality of others in the same direction ; such as Joseph Brooksbank in 1712 (subsequently mentioned), and William Coward, a wealthy merchant of London, the founder of Coward College. I find that the trustees of the charities left by the latter made a grant-May 18tn, 1743-of 21 Bibles and 21 Testaments to James Scott, minister of the Congregational Church at Horton in Craven, for free distribution among the young people of his congregation. Mr. Scott was notable for diligently instructing them in the Assembly's Catechism, and was the founder of the Heckmondwike Independent Academy (1756), now the United College, Bradford.
THE FOUNDER'S OWN MANAGEMENT, 1690—1696.
“Old age hath still its honour and its toil ;
Death closes all ; but something ere the end-
TENNYSON. The manner in which the plan before described was carried out appears in the Correspondence and Diary of Thoresby, who was at the time a decided Nonconformist or Protestant Dissenter, His name was probably introduced to Lord Wharton by his friend Richard Stretton, M.A., an eminent Nonconformist minister in London, and formerly minister at Mill Hill Chapel, Leeds, who wrote to Thoresby, August 26th, 1690 :
“I must desire you to take the trouble upon you to consult Mr. Bryan Dickson, Mr. Thomas Wilson [Nonconformists], and others whom you judge meet to assist you in the work, to get the names and sirnames, and of their parents, or those with whom they reside, of poor children that can read, to the number of eighty, in the Parish of Leeds, the same names enclosed to be sent by the post in an out-cover, directed to the Right Honourable, the Lord Wharton, at his house in St. Giles's-in-the-Fields. It is in order to the sending of a Bible to each of them. Let it be done with all convenient speed, because about Michaelmas he thinks to send them ; he will send, proportionably to their bigness to all the great towns in the West Ricing of Yorkshire." (Correspondence, I., 106.)
Lord Wharton himself wrote to Thoresby from London, March 3rd, 1691, expressing his satisfaction with what he had done, and stating :
“ The work being (as I think) of public good use, I hope you will continue your pains and care therein, it being like to hold for my life and perhaps longer."
He again wrote, from Wooburn, October 5th, 1691, as follows:
“There are eighty Bibles and Catechisms which will be with you suddenly.
There are also with the said Bibles and Catechisms eight of Lye's Catechisms and eight of Allein's 'Sure Guide to Heaven,' which are to be delivered to one of each ten children who had books last year, and who have made best proficiency in the repeating of the Catechisms and Psalms appointed,
together with 12d. in money or coals for the parent or guardian of each such child. There is also a small encouragement allowed to each person who examines the said children as to their said proficiency—that is to say, 2s. 6d. to each person who examines the children. You are desired to preach a sermon at Leeds this year at the delivering out of the said books (apparently considering him to be a Nonconformist minister], and I desire there may be no mention of me, only I entreat you that then and at other times you remember me and mine in your prayers; the purport of the sermon in the next side is enclosed.... Mr. William Mortimer, of Helaugh, shall have order to deliver you 1os. for the sermon you preach this year, and 8s. for the parents of those children who have made best proficiency in repeating their Catechism and Psalms appointed ; and 2os. for yourself, or such else as examined the said children as to their said proficiency."
In his Diary Thoresby noted :
"1691, Dec. 9.-Distributing the eighty Bibles and as many Catechisms to the probationers for the ensuing year, with eight of Lye's Catechisms and eight Alleine's Sure Guide to Heaven,' to the eight best proficients of the former year, with 12d. for each parent. Mr. Sharp (the 'incomparable' Thomas Sharp, M.A., of Bradford, ejected at Adel, and the successor of Richard Stretton, at Mill Hill Nonconformist Chapel] preached from John v. 39 [' Search the Scriptures,' &c.]; doctrine—that those Scriptures, wherein we think to have eternal life, and which testify of Christ, are to be diligently searched by us all.
" 1692, Sept. 26.-Morning rose pretty early, rode to Healey (with brother) to wait upon that excellent pattern of true nobility and piety, Philip, Lord Wharton, who received us with abundant kindness. Dined with his honour and several persons of quality ; had afterwards particular orders in private about the Bibles, &c.*
"1693, Sept. 3.-Mr. Waterhouse (of Bradford) preached well from Gen. xlviii. 21, and concluded with some affectionate expressions relating to the sad providence (the death of Mr. Sharp, of Mill Hill Chapel], &c. Evening, heard the ten orphans (to whom the Lord Wharton's former year's Bibles were distributed) their Catechism and Psalms; most repeated very well.”
The same year Oliver Heywood had a personal interview with Lord Wharton, concerning which he
Just before this time, Lord Wharton was visited at Healaugh by John Howe, who called with Cornelius Todd (an ejected minister residing at Healaugh) on Thoresby, at Leeds; and on parting from Howe, at Pontefract, whither he accompanied him on his return to London, Thoresby wrote: " Lord preserve him from the danger of his journey, and convey him safe to his own habitation, that he may be continued as a blessing to this nation." (Diary, I., 228.)
wrote: “Met my Lord Wharton at Healaugh, satisfied him about Bibles, Catechisms; gave him a catalogue of 160 of each distributed; gave Mr. Taylor (one of the original trustees of the Charity] my sheet of covenanting ; had full conference with him ; procured fifty Bibles, Catechisms, for friends; got £ 5 for Joseph Heywood (a nephew of Heywood, and student at Frankland's Academy); £3 for our School ; £10, which I gave Mr. Baxter for Bramham, &c.; and prayed four times with my lord; returned safely home, but late, on August 24th, 1693."
When in London, in 1695 (May 24th), Thoresby called on his lordship, and noted : “ Walked to St. Giles's to wait upon the pious and noble Lord Wharton, who entertained me most obligingly, gave me a dispensation to dispose of his Bibles to such as perform the conditions, though not resident within the parish of Leeds; and at the parting condescended to desire an interest in my prayers. Was much affected with his piety and charity.”
THE ASSEMBLY'S SHORTER CATECHISM. “As no knowledge is so necessary as that of the grounds and principles of the Christian religion, so no way is so apt to convey it as that which is called catechetical.”—Preface to “ An Explanation of Assembly's Catechism," by Thomas Vincent.
The Assembly's Shorter Catechism was described by Thoresby as “an excellent summary of the Christian religion.” It was prepared by a Committee of the Westminster Assembly of Divines, of which Lord Wharton was a lay member; presented with Proofs out of the Scripture to both Houses of Parliament, and ordered, September 15th, 1648, to be printed for public use. The title approved to be prefixed to it was as follows :-“The Grounds and Principles of Religion, contained in a Shorter Catechism (according to the advice of the Assembly of Divines, sitting at Westminster) to be used throughout the kingdom of Great Britain and dominion of Wales." For the information of any reader who may not be familiar with this Cate