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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 1

Wanganui Parsonage, September 2nd, 1867

Wanganui Parsonage, September 2nd, 1867.


As you seem to expect a reply to your note of last Saturday, I will do my best to give you one. You seem annoyed, if I may judge from the tone of your note, that I should presume to exercise that liberty of conscience and opinion which I know Dissenters claim for themselves, and which I believed they allowed to others. You claim to be addressed as "reverend," according to the "common usages of society," i.e., the world. This I cannot conscientiously do, and I will tell you why. I need not say that I mean nothing personally disrespectful to yourself by refusing to give you a title to which you, in common with most dissenting teachers, consider you have a fair claim. If I refused it to you upon the ground of supposed inferiority of education, worldly station, or character, I could only (to be consistent) claim it myself upon the ground of self-imputed superiority in these particulars—a degree of presumption of which I should be sorry to be guilty. Supposing myself to be a worse theologian, a worse scholar, a worse preacher, a worse man than yourself, I should designate myself "reverend," and should refuse so to designate you. And why? I claim this title of honour simply and exclusively in consideration of nay office; I refuse it to you simply and exclusively because I do not consider that you have been appointed to the same office.

We, of the Church, think no man personally worthy of holding the illustrious office of an ambassador of Christ, and calling himself by any distinctive title as such. St. Paul even thought the same of himself, for he declared himself "not meet to be called an apostle;" and he moreover gives a reason why it is necessary that we should be thus personally inferior to our station, "We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of men."

I have cogent reasons for speaking of persons in your position (as I did just now), as dissenting teachers, and not dissenting page 7 clergymen. And these reasons have not been adopted hastily or arrogantly, but are the result of more than thirty years' serious reflection.

The title of "clergyman" seems to me, like the prefix "reverend," to involve the whole question at issue between the Church and dissent. The proper meaning of the word "clergy" is the "lot" or appointment of God; and the clergy are set apart by Him, like the tribe of Levi, to be His. But I deny that dissenting teachers hold any appointment in the Church, except of their own fanciful creation, and upon their own unsupported authority; therefore I cannot conscientiously call them dissenting clergymen, any more than I can designate them as "reverend," although I had the greatest personal esteem and respect for them. And I think that this objection will apply with tenfold force to the Wesleyan preachers, inasmuch as they have thrust themselves into the pastoral office, and made a schism in Christ's body, in direct opposition to the—precepts of their "father and founder." "Let this be well observed,—I fear, when the Methodists leave the Church, God will leave them." "Are we not unawares, by little and little, sliding into a separation from the Church? O use every means to prevent this. 1. Exhort all our people to keep close to the Church and Sacrament. 2. Warn them also against despising the prayers of the Church. 3. Against calling our society the Church." (Minutes of Conference, 1770.) See also the reasons assigned by John and Charles Wesley against a separation from the Church of England. (Works, vol. 23, p. 116, &c.)

Oh! if "glorious old John" could walk upon earth again, would he not go about with a seourge to correct the proceedings of modern Methodism, and the gross departures from what he wished or intended?

Pardon my warmth; it arises only from the recollection of what I have seen and heard among the Methodists, in the midst of whom I have lived for years.

I think that I have now fully answered your inquiries, and having done so simply as a matter of courtesy, I require no reply, either to this or my first note, nor shall I pursue the subject any further.

You will, of course, require no apology for my not knowing your Christian name, as you have made a similar mistake with mine. I wrote "Chas.," which you read "D."

With every personal respect,

I remain, Yours truly,

Chas. H. S. Nicholls.

Mr. Isaac Harding,