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In the course, therefore, of the last few years, upward of two hundred different associations have been formed; the simple design of all which has been, to offer to such persons in each neighbourhood, as might feel inclined to subscribe, the opportunity of doing so with the least inconvenience. The exciting also of a spirit of prayer for the blessing of God on the Society, and the stimulating of proper persons to offer themselves as missionaries, were among the objects in view. The result of these efforts has been, that thirteen clergymen ordained in our episcopal church, together with eighteen Lutheran clergymen, have been sent out by the Society; and that, last year, about 20,0001. 3 was raised in aid of its designs.
In forming these various associations, the most simple and inoffensive method has been adopted. When the friends of the Society in any considerable neighbourhood, and especially the clergy and more respectable inhabitants, have conceived that there was any fair opening for proposing the Society to the pious and benevolent around them, application has been respectfully made to persons of weight and consideration residing in or near the place; and if the ineasure has been received with favour, a meeting has been called, some nobleman or
3 The income of the first year was about 9001.
gentleman in the vicinity being requested to act as chairman, as is customary on similar public occasions. The plan of the Society has then been explained, an Association formed in its support, officers to conduct it chosen, and subscriptions raised.
In this manner the Society has been advancing with increasing rapidity, maintaining always a charitable and prudent line of conduct, interfering with no other Societies, violating no usages of ecclesiastical discipline, making no reflections on those who might decline to support it“, but relying on the purity of its intentions and the blessing of God for that degree of patronage among distinguished persons in church and state, which it might please Divine Providence to grant. Already had the Society obtained the favour of two venerable prelates and other dignitaries of our church, of many eminent noblemen, and of a great body of the clergy; and the time seemed approaching when the attention of our fellow-countrymen would be more generally directed to our great cause, when the extraordinary event occurred which has made the present defence of the Society necessary; but which, we cannot doubt, will, in its consequences, serve only to bring the great question of missions still more fully before the British pation.
4 The reader is referred to the official documents of the Society, contained in Seventeen Reports, from 1801 to 1817; which, with the Annual Sermons, now form five volumes octavo.
At the meeting, called by advertisement, of the friends to a proposed Bath Association, the Rev. Josiah Thomas, the Archdeacon of Bath, appeared; and before the Secretary of the Society could explain the nature of the projected undertaking, delivered an Address and Protest, which he has since published, and which has appeared in most of the London and many of the country newspapers. This proceeding bas, of course, attracted much public attention; but the reasons by which it is supported are, as I trust will appear, utterly insufficient to justify so unprecedented a measure.
The objections urged by the Archdeacon are of two sorts: the first regards the AUTHORITY BY WHICH THE PROPOSED ASSOCIATION WAS FORMED; the second, the NATURE AND DESIGNS OF THE CHURCH MISSIONARY SOCIETY, with which it was to be united.
On the subject of authority, the reverend speaker states, that he came to the meeting officially; that, in delivering the Address which he has now published, under the name of a Protest, he was executing his office; that the Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of the Diccese, and the vast majority of the clergy in his jurisdiction, disclaimed the Society; and that the Institution was an irregular association, tending to the subversion of ecclesiastical order. He charges the right reverend prelate who took the chair at the meeting, with invading the province of his venerable brother, and thrusting his sickle into another man's harvest. He pointedly intimates, that the Society assumed a title to which it had no right. He expresses his conviction, that the formation of the proposed association at Bath would be pernicious, and would render that city a hot-bed of heresy and schism. As Archdeacon, therefore, of Bath, in the name of his diocesan, in his own name, in the names of the rectors of Bath, and in the names of nineteen-twentieths of the clergy of his jurisdiction, the reverend speaker protested against the formation of the proposed Society.
The tendency of this language, as well as of the whole Address delivered by the Archdeacon, was, to represent the formation of the Bath Missionary Association as an irregular, unauthorized, and uncanonical act—as an act so irregular, that it became at once his right and duty to interpose; and, by a personal and solemn Protest, to effect either the suppression of the design, or at least the secession of all its clerical promoters.
The question, then, is, in what respect was this meeting irregular or uncanonical? What were the circumstances, and what the laws applicable to those circumstances, that warranted
the Archdeacon in a measure of interference, which, if not justified on the grounds claimed for it, he himself must allow to have been an outrage on the rights of private judgment, and a flagrant departure from the decorum ordinarily observed in civilized society.
1. The Archdeacon appears to found his claim of jurisdiction over the meeting, on the circumstance of our Missionary Society being a Church of England Society. He will not, indeed, allow, what he states to be its pretensions to the title; but he obviously assumes his right of interference on that ground. Now it is manifest, that the Society never affected or pretended to represent the Church of England; still less to act by any commission or delegation from that veuerable authority. It neither is, nor ever assumed to be, any other than a voluntary institution, supported by the free contributions of individuals, in conformity with the doctrine and discipline of the church. No mistake could arise, on this head, to any one at all acquainted with its design, principles, or proceedings. All misapprehension was effectually precluded, by the publicity with which the Society has uniformly acted. The title, The Church Missionary Society, never meant-it was never intended to mean-a Society supported by the collective authority of the Church of England; but simply, a society conducted