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THE STATE OF THE CHURCH IN 1833.
the period with which we are now concerned,
the zeal of the Church was almost wholly monopolized by the Evangelicals. Still, amongst those who were in contradistinction called the orthodox party, there were Clergymen who, if they did not reproduce the glories of the Augustan age, as it has been called, of Queen Anne, nor equal the theologians who had combated the Deists in the reign of the second George, yet as pious Clergymen did good service in their generation against the profanity of the day, or as able defenders of the faith.
First amongst these we shall instance Bishop Porteus, who although more identified than most of his brother Bishops with the Evangelical party, and sometimes denounced as a Methodist, never identified himself with any party, and cannot, more than ordinary Low Churchmen, be classed as a party
Beilby Porteus (1731–1808), the youngest but one of nineteen children, was born at York, and graduated at Christ's College, Cambridge, as tenth Wrangler, and gained the second of the Chancellor's Medals on the first occasion that they were awarded, and afterwards the Seatonian Prize for the best English poem on a sacred subject. After holding the Livings of Rucking and Wittersham in Kent, from which he exchanged to Hunton in the same county, he was, in 1762, appointed as his Chaplain by Archbishop Secker, who preferred him to a Prebend (which the Archbishop had chosen as his option) in Peterborough Cathedral, and in 1677 to the Rectory of Lambeth; in 1769 he became a Chaplain to the King, and soon afterwards Master of St. Cross Hospital, Dean of the Chapel Royal, and Provincial Dean of Canterbury. We have already seen him in 1772 an unsuccessful promoter of the revision of the Book of Common Prayer and of the Articles; in 1776 he was appointed to the See of Chester, and in 1787, on the death of Bishop Lowth, to London.
Whilst Bishop of Chester he bore a prominent part in matters which then engaged public attention. In the winter of 1780 a new species of dissipation and profaneness, in the shape of Sunday evening amusements, was started by a set of needy and profligate adventurers. One of these amusements was a Promenade held at Carlisle House in London; the other consisted of meetings in rooms, hired for the purpose, under the names of Christian Societies, Religious Societies, Theological Societies, &c. To the former the price of admission was three shillings, the ostensible purpose being to walk about and
converse, but the consequence was that the Promenade became a place of assignation for the most profligate characters in and about London. The business of the debating societies was the discussion of passages of Scripture, ladies and gentlemen proffering their doubts and receiving explanations, the result being that many people departed from them sceptics, if not confirmed unbelievers. Thus whilst the Promenade tended to destroy every moral sentiment, the debating societies extinguished every religious principle; and the two together threatened the worst consequence to public morals. The statute and common law being inadequate to stop the evil, Bishop Porteus obtained the drawing up by eminent lawyers of a Bill which was introduced in 1781 into the House of Commons by Mr. Mansfield, the Solicitor-General, under the title of “An Act for preventing certain abuses and profanations on the Lord's Day, commonly called Sunday;" which, after being strongly opposed in both Houses of Parliament, passed into law
The necessity of taking further measures to check the increasing profligacy of the times was still apparent, and one of Porteus's first objects on being appointed to the See of London in 1787 was to promote a Society which had been set on foot in the previous year, called “The Society for enforcing
• Life of Porteus, p. 71.
the King's Proclamation against Immorality and Profaneness," of which he became Vice-President. The good effects of his exertion were immediate and important; many useful Acts of Parliament were obtained by means of the Society, many persons were prosecuted for disseminating licentious books, and a check was put on exhibiting licentious prints. In the suppression of the slave-trade and the civilization of the negroes; in the establishment of Sunday-schools, and the work of the Bible Society, of which he became Vice-President, he bore a conspicuous part; he built and endowed at his own expense a chapel at Sundridge, his summer place of residence; but Bishop Porteus stands out as a proof how even the best of the Bishops of that time lost sight of the nature and iinportance of his high office, for during his tenure of the See, which extended over twenty-one years, with a rapidly increasing population, not a single church was built in London, whilst he left behind him a princely fortune to a nephew b.
Two theological writers, Dr. Paley and Bishop Watson, although both of them Latitudinarians, did good service to the Church in the defence of Christianity. Of these William Paley (1743–1805), after leading at Christ's College, Cambridge, for the first
Bishop Porteus, when asked to preach a charity sermon, answered that he gave only one a year, and for that year it was bespoken.
two years of his undergraduate career, an idle and gay life, took to reading, and graduated as Senior Wrangler in 1763, becoming Fellow and Tutor of his College. In the Subscription Controversy of 1772, although he did not himself sign the Feathers Tavern Petition (he could not afford to keep a conscience, he said) yet he published an anonymous “Defence” of a pamphlet written by his friend, Dr. Law, who advocated that cause. Dr. Law, Bishop of Carlisle, who was a Latitudinarian like himself, presented him in 1775 to the Rectory of Musgrave in Westmoreland, and after holding other unimportant preferments, Paley was collated in 1780 by the same patron to a Prebend in Carlisle Cathedral; in 1782 he became Archdeacon of Carlisle ; and in 1784 Chancellor of the Diocese. In 1785 he published his greatest and most influential work, “The Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy” (a work which at once became a text-book of the University of Cambridge), an enlargement of lectures he had previously delivered as Tutor of his College. In 1790 appeared his "Horæ Paulinæ " with the view of showing from “undesigned coincidences” and the confirmation which one gives to the other, the improbability or impossibility of the New Testament being, as infidels of the time maintained, a
c"On the Truth of the Scripture History of St. Paul, evinced by a comparison of the Epistles which bear his name with the Acts of the Apostles and with one another.”