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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 8

Tu Romano Cave-to

Tu Romano Cave-to.

Sir,—The Rev. Cave Brown Cave, now on his way out from England, has been appointed to succeed the Rev. W. B. Clarke, at St. Thomas's, North Shore; the congregation having no more to do with the appointment than that very apocryphal personage known to all men as the man in the moon. It is not intended, however, to intimate that the appointment is either informal, illegal, or even injudicious; for its legality is unquestionable, and it is equally certain that the Bishop is quite alive to the expediency of appointing, as successor to the former distinguished incumbent, some one whose powers should not be below mediocrity; and Mr. Cave, we believe, has the reputation of an efficient preacher and a thoroughly good man. But it would only be consistent with the practice of primitive Christianity and with common sense, to allow the congregation to appoint their own minister; and as the powers that be have recently referred the clergy to their congregations for their stipends, this principle of congregational election will, sooner or later, assert itself universally and with undeniable emphasis. The hearers at St. Thomas's, consisting of judges, barristers, heads of departments, engineers, lawyers and merchants, are quite as competent to deal with a question of this sort as they are to pay for a clergyman; and the first time that a ritualist, or a muff, or any one not to their taste, gets possession of page 248 their pulpit, he will have to vacate at the peril of his stipend, on the principle that those who pay the piper have an undoubted right to decide as to what sort of music is to be discoursed.

Your readers are aware that the Wesleyan body is governed by a hierarchy of one hundred ministers, styled the Conference, and they happen to be amongst the richest of all rich corporations—their fixed property, at the present moment, being estimated at millions. This is brought about thus: Whenever a new chapel is projected, trustees are appointed, who collect funds, and have the privilege of making themselves liable to the builders—the Conference, as a ride, invariably steering clear of all brick and mortar, and every other liability whatever. But as soon as the chapel is out of debt it is transferred to Conference, and hence their nice little estate.

Shortly after the death, some forty years ago, of Dr. Adam Clarke, a, or rather the, great gun of the Wesleyans, a promising young fellow was appointed by Conference to preach to a congregation in a Yorkshire circuit; but he was soon at loggerheads with the Conference. Dr. Clarke had always maintained that the term "eternal Son," applied to Jesus Christ, was "eternal nonsense," nothing less indeed than a contradiction in terms; and our young parson, thinking as Dr. Clarke had thought, took the liberty to say as Dr. Clarke had said. The Conference heard of it and suspended the preacher at once. A little heresy might be tolerated in Dr. Clarke; but our young friend, who was a nobody, and obviously on the high road to Unitarianism, was to be handled somewhat differently. But the congregation was just as prompt as the Conference. The Conference suspended the parson, but the congregation suspended the Conference, and intimated that Mr. B. would continue to preach for them, coute qui coute, and if Conference declined to provide the stipend, no matter, they would relieve Conference in that particular also. Heresy was bad enough, but rebellion was worse, and so Conference succumbed.

And now comes the cream of the joke. The chapel in question had just been freed of debt, and the trustees had even moved in the matter of surrendering the estate to Conference, when all at once they proved so tardy in carrying out the arrangement that Conference had to remind them of it. The trustees then intimated that recent events had taught the people that the best way to secure the right-of-way to their own pulpit was to retain the keys of the front door of their own chapel. The trustees, therefore, would continue to retain the fee simple of the estate for the benefit of the congregation; and there the chapel stands to this day a monument of good sense, pluck, and Christian independence.

Ballot Box.