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Sunday-schools, containing over 60,000 scholars able to read the Bible, and it was found possible to give only one Bible to about every ten scholars. Suitable Bibles, with appropriate inscriptions, were obtained and sent accordingly; and it was requested that from each place to which Bibles were sent there should be a return of (1) the names of the young persons to whom the Bibles were given, and (2) the method adopted in determining their proficiency.
At the second distribution (1900), when most of the former applications were renewed, and many new applications were received, the same plan of distribution was adopted. The total income of the Charity, January to December, 1900, was £1,323 45. 8d. ; expenses of management, including Clerk's salary, printing, &c., 698 155.; leaving £1,224 gs. 8d. Onehalf of this amount, £612 4s. rod., was applied by the Church of England trustees to the purchase and distribution of 2,800 Bibles, and the same number of Prayer Books; the other half by the Nonconformist trustees to the purchase and distribution of 6,600 Bibles. The income, expenses, and distribution continue very much the same from year to year. the Nonconformist trustees received and granted applications from 426 Sunday-schools, containing 75,037 scholars able to read the Bible; the number of Bibles distributed among them was somewhat less than in the proportion of one to ten scholars; and the denominations with which these schools are connected were as follows :
Yorks. Westm. Cumb. Bucks. Total. Baptist 42
6 Presbyterian ...
14 Wesleyan Methodist
19 3 125 Primitive Methodist ...
66 Methodist New Connexion ... 25
25 United Methodist Free Church 17
18 Wesleyan Reform ... Minor Denominations 6
The total number of Bibles distributed by the Nonconformist trustees in seven years has been over 45,000.
REMARKS ON THE SCHEME. 1. The provisions of the founder of a charity ought, according to common judgment, to be subsequently observed by its managers or trustees. If those provisions are not clearly expressed, the intention of the founder must be ascertained, as far as possible, by the best evidence that can be obtained. And, in case they be clearly expressed, but through unforeseen changes are no longer feasible or beneficial, it is reasonable and necessary that, with due regard to the main purpose of the charity, they should be altered. Such an alteration cannot, however, be always safely left entirely to the trustees, because their judgment is apt to be warped in favour of purposes not contemplated by the founder, and even opposed to them; and so the charity may be perverted. It requires to be settled by properly constituted authority. Even then the settlement may not be altogether wise or just, inasmuch as it may be arrived at on imperfect evidence or unduly influenced by the consideration of recent usage, or may consist of a compromise that may serve an immediate purpose and hold good for a while, but satisfies no one, and is likely to be upset at a future time. These remarks are more or less pertinent to the Scheme for the regulation and administration of Lord Wharton's Bible Charity, which has been recently approved by order of the High Court of Justice (Chancery Division).
2. Of the main purpose of this Charity there can be no doubt. It was primarily to distribute Bibles freely among poor children in certain places; and, in connection therewith, to encourage their reading the Scriptures, and to promote the knowledge of “the grounds and principles of the Christian Religion.” What the Founder meant by this last expression is evident from the Catechism and other kindred books,
which he specially mentioned, and in which the principal truths and duties of the Christian Religion were set forth. He desired to promote Protestant, Puritan, or (as may be most appropriately called) Evangelical, in contrast with
contrast with Roman Catholic or Sacerdotal doctrine and practice. Such a purpose is practically unaffected by the changes that have subsequently occurred, and it ought not to be disregarded.
3. But with respect to the special methods prescribed by the Founder it is different. They are rendered to a great extent needless and useless by such changes. The Assembly's Catechism does not now hold the same place in the estimation of Nonconformists as it once did. It is largely laid aside in the religious instruction of children, the more direct teaching of the Bible being substituted for it. The other books mentioned are not suited to modern taste; and Sundayschools, by undertaking the religious instruction of young people, have rendered most of the “Instructions” of the Founder quite unnecessary and out of place. These Instructions may have been suitable and serviceable at first, but they are so no longer, and it would be most unwise to insist upon their observance. The Scheme, therefore, sets them aside, and simply defines the purpose of the Charity as for (1) the distribution of Bibles, without specifying either the Authorised or the Revised Version; and (2) such religious books as the trustees may select at their discretion.
4. It does not appear that the Founder intended the trustees to be members of the Church of England (unless, indeed, it were in the sense of Hooker, “that there is not any man a member of the Commonwealth which is not also of the Church of England"). If this was intended, there could have been no reason why it should not have been expressed in the Trust Deed or Instructions. Its omission is fatal to the claim of such trustees to its exclusive administration. Moreover, the Catechism and other books selected by the Founder (which would certainly not have been acceptable to the Anglican clergy), his own religious profession and that of the first trustees, and the persons chosen by him as the first distributors of the Charity, as well as his avoiding every reference to parish clergymen or ministers in the matter, all indicate that he intended its management to be outside the Church of England altogether.
5. There is adequate reason for believing that he intended it to be administered by Nonconformists or Protestant Dissenters. The omission of this or any more specific name is accounted for by the fact that only three or four years had elapsed since the passing of the Toleration Act, previous to which all religious meetings of Nonconformists were illegal, and the continuance of the liberty afforded thereby was very doubtful. It is common to find in trust-deeds of Nonconformist meeting-houses of this period a clause providing against the contingency that “Protestant ministers dissenting from the Church of England might at any time or times hereafter be prohibited or restrained from the liberty of preaching or teaching, and other acts of religious worship.” Lord Wharton did not wish to expose his Charity to the danger of being declared illegal and confiscated. He probably thought that by the omission of the name of Nonconformists or Protestant Dissenters he would best secure its permanence, whatever might take place in the future; whilst by selecting the Assembly's Catechism and other kindred books, by appointing trustees holding the same views as himself, and by his own action indicating the lines on which it should be conducted, he hoped to make it most effective through Nonconformist ministers and others who were in closest sympathy with his purpose.
6. There does not seem to be sufficient ground for the claim of any existing section or “body” of Nonconformists to the entire management of the Charity. If any such claim could be justly maintained, it would be by the Congregationalists, who in Christian doctrine, Church government, and historical continuity are most truly representative of the early Protestant Dissenters.
Of Baptists there were few or none two centuries ago in the places designated in the Instructions ; the “ Methodists" did not come into existence until half a century later; and “The Presbyterian Church of England” is of recent origin. But, considering the changes that have taken place during the last two centuries, and the main purpose of the Founder in relation to the actual religious condition of things at the present time, it seems most in harmony with that purpose to regard the Charity as a Nonconformist Charity in the largest and most comprehensive sense ; and (so far as it is treated as belonging to Nonconformists) it is thus dealt with in the Scheme.
7. As to the recipients of the Bibles, no religious or denominational limitation was made by the Founder, who spoke of the Charity as “of public good use"; and this also is one of the features of the Scheme. consideration" of applications from the four counties mentioned in the Instructions is rightly provided for by it, without prejudice to the right of the trustees to make grants elsewhere at their discretion. The extension of the area to be benefited by the Charity would be of no advantage, considering the immense population of these counties; but the relative number and requirements of the population of the particular towns or places mentioned in the Instructions are now so different from what they were formerly, that the several allotments to them stated therein are properly ignored. No special conditions, by which the selection of the recipients may be determined, are mentioned, and no provision is made for the preaching of sermons.
8. Apart from requiring that members of the Church of England shall be trustees (not required by the Instructions of the Founder, and contrary to his intentions), the Scheme has several excellent provisions. It admits to the management of the Charity a definite number of Nonconformists, representatively nominated, instead of allowing it, as heretofore, to continue entirely in the hands of professed members of