Page images
PDF
EPUB

in the whole question of colonisation ; his imagination was filled with visions of the greatness to which the young nations that were being created by British enterprise and adventure were destined; he believed that in a century or two they would have immense populations and immense material resources ; and it seemed to him that to endeavour to inspire them in the early years of their history with loyalty to Christ and a hearty faith in those spiritual principles which lie at the foundation of the Congregational polity was one of the most urgent duties of the Congregational Churches in England.

As the Congregational Union hesitated to do anything, and as the London Missionary Society declined to accept any permanent obligations to maintain missionaries and to aid Churches in the colonies, he determined to take action himself. He and a few of his friends determined to establish a Colonial Missionary Society. A Provisional Committee was formed, and a meeting for constituting the Society was advertised for Friday, May 13, 1836.

But the men who were anxious that the Congregational Union, as representing the Congregational Churches of England, should exercise a firm control over all schemes and enterprises depending on the Congregational Churches for support, regarded the project of a separate Society for colonial missions with disapproval. At the meeting of the Union on Tuesday morning, May 10—three days before the date of the meeting advertised by Mr. Binney—it was moved by Dr. Morison, of Chelsea, and seconded by Dr. Matheson, of Durham :

“That this Union, having for its first object the promotion

evangelical religion, rejoices in the proposed formation of a Colonial Missionary Society, to establish churches of our order in the British Colonies ; also, that in the opinion of this meeting, the state of religion in our own country requires that the Union should undertake Home Missionary operations; and that the Committee be instructed to make arrangements accordingly.”

The resolution was opposed by Dr. Redford, of Worcester, and by the Rev. Algernon Wells, who urged that the Colonial Mission should be undertaken by the Union itself, and should be dependent on it. After a long discussion, the Assembly accepted the following amendment, moved by Dr. Ross, of

Kidderminster,19 and seconded by the Rev. G. B. Kidd, of Scarborough :

“That a Committee be now appointed to confer with the brethren engaged in the proposed Colonial Mission Committee, and report the result during the present sitting.”

On their return Dr. Brown, the chairman, reported

"That the Provisional Committee of the projected Colonial Missionary Society have consented to be regarded as a Committee of this Union, and that the Society shall, on Friday next, be formed in consistency with this consent."

Dr. Morison then moved, and Dr. Matheson seconded, a resolution declaring that

“ It is desirable that the [? a) Colonial Missionary Society be formed in connection with the Congregational Union, and that the Colonial Missionary Society as arranged by Messrs. Wells, Reed, Binney, and Gull, and convened by public advertisement for Friday next, be adopted by this Union accordingly."

On Friday morning the Union appointed the committee and officers of the new Society; and at twelve o'clock, when the meeting assembled at the Weigh House to constitute a Colonial Missionary Society, it was informed by Mr. Binney that the Society was already constituted. Dr. Morison and Dr. Matheson, who had moved and seconded the resolution of sympathy with the proposal for forming an independent Society, and Mr. Algernon Wells and Dr. Redford, who had moved and seconded the successful amendment, were among the most prominent speakers. 11

The first minister sent out by the Society was Mr. Wilkes, who sailed for New York at the end of June, within six weeks after the Society was constituted. He had accepted a call from the Church at Montreal, whose previous pastor, the Rev. R. Miles-according to The Congregational Magazine of May, 1836"having been painfully impressed with the melancholy destitution of the British settlers in the bushes of Canada, has nobly resigned the comforts of a city pastorship

10 Three years later, Dr. Ross went out to Sydney, and under his pastorate the Church in Pitt Street acquired great strength.

11 Waddington, iv. (1800-1850), 464-467.

that he might go after the neglected settlers in the wilderness.” The same magazine states that in taking this step Mr. Wilkes was greatly influenced by the hope of receiving permanent help from the Colonial Missionary Society.

In 1837 the Union again appointed the Committee of the Society ; but in 1838 a scheme was adopted under which the Committee were appointed by the Society, while its officers were ex-officio members of the Committee of the Congregational Union and the officers of the Union were ex-officio members of the Committee of the Colonial Missionary Society. This change made the Society in some measure independent of the Union, though retaining an organic relation between the executive committees of the two bodies.

At the beginning of 1841 the Society reported that it had sent out fourteen ministers to the colonies; that it was sustaining thirty-twenty-four in actual labour and six in preparatory studies ; that its agents had erected twenty chapels, and gathered into church communion more than twelve hundred communicants.

II

The same general policy which suggested the endeavour to make Colonial Missions a department of the work of the Union, and which, when the original scheme broke down, secured the retention of an organic relationship between the Union and the Colonial Missionary Society, soon led to another important movement. In 1819 the Home Missionary Society had been founded for evangelising the villages and smaller towns of England. Eight years later—in 1827—the original Congregational Union, then in a very feeble condition, was merged in the new Society. Mr. Thompson, of Pontefract Park, a wealthy member of the Stock Exchange, who was one of the founders of the Society and its Treasurer, served it with great energy, and for a time secured for it a considerable amount of support. But the Society drifted into financial difficulties, and in 1837 it was proposed that the Congregational Union should form a Congregational Home Mission to be conducted by the Union and the County Associations. Prizes were offered for the best essays on Home Missions, and the two successful essays—“ Jethro " by Dr. Campbell,

[ocr errors]

and “ Our Country” by Dr. Matheson-attracted very general attention. At the Autumnal Meeting of the Union, held in Birmingham in 1839, it was resolved that the Union should create an organisation for Home Missionary purposes. But in 1840 it was resolved that the Union should adopt the existing Home Missionary Society, and that it should stand in the same relation to the Union as the Society for Colonial Missions. 12

III

In the same year the Irish Evangelical Society was affiliated” to the Union on the same terms. This society was founded in 1814 by persons belonging to different religious denominations. Its principal object was to support an Institution in Dublin for the training of Evangelical ministers, which after a few years was closed for want of funds. In 1832 it was revived. The Rev. Dr. Urwick and the Rev. William Haweis Cooper were appointed Tutors, and Mr. Owen Connellan gave instruction to the students in Erse. Mr. Cooper, who was a man of fervid eloquence, came over from Ireland every year to preach for several weeks at Hoxton Academy Chapel, and created so deep an interest in Irish missions that the Institution derived a larger part of its support from the Hoxton Hibernian Association.13 Dr. Urwick was also a man who, by his force of character and his power as a preacher and speaker, had a great influence among the Congregational Churches of England.

The association of the Irish Evangelical Society with the Congregational Union was followed by a sharp controversy. A Congregational Union had been formed in Ireland, and it was the wish of a large number of Irish Congregational ministers that the Irish Union should have the control of Irish missions. They resented the interference of the English Union with a Society intended for the evangelisation of Ireland. In their general contention they were supported by Mr. James, of Birmingham-of whose Church Dr. Urwick had been a member-Dr. Wardlaw, of Glasgow, and Dr. Clunie, of Manchester. On the general question at issue it does not

12 Waddington, iv. (1800—1850), 524-528.
13 See ante, pp. 603-604.

appear that there was any strenuous resistance to the Irish claims; the Committee of the Congregational Union were willing to concede to the Irish Union the practical control of Congregational missions in Ireland; but the Irish ministers wished to have an unrestricted right to appeal to English Congregational Churches for contributions to the Irish Union. The Committee of the English Union maintained that this would be the cause of great confusion and, perhaps, of illfeeling ; and they insisted that whatever funds were collected from English Churches for Irish purposes should be collected by the Irish Evangelical Society. At a meeting held in Liverpool, in June, 1841, Dr. Raffles, of Liverpool, Dr. Wardlaw, Mr. James, Mr. Blackburn, of London, and Mr. Kelly, of Liverpool, proposed terms of adjustment which were accepted on both sides ; but the sore feeling of the Irish ministers and Churches was not altogether removed, and for many years they retained the impression that Irish Congregational missions would have been more vigorous if they had been wholly under the control of a committee sitting in Dublin. It is possible that this impression still survives.14

IV

When the Congregational Board of Education was formed in 1843,15 it was regarded as an integral part of the Union. The Committee was appointed by the Annual Assembly and was responsible to it. In 1847 it was placed on the same basis as the three Societies for maintaining missions at home, in the colonies, and in Ireland ; except that, while the officers of the Union were ex-officio members of the Board of Education, the officers of the Board were not ex-officio members of the Committee of the Union. This inequality, however, was remedied in 1852.

V

In 1853 there were signs of a decisive change of policy. At the Autumnal Assembly in 1852 a scheme had been submitted and approved for the creation of an English Congrega

14 Waddington, iv. (1800-1850), 528-546.
15 See ante,

pp. 661-663

« PreviousContinue »