TOWNSHIP OF COWLING
BUILDING OF THEIR NEW CHURCH, 1844
VICAR OF KILDWICK.
PRINTED BY T.W. GREEN
By the good providence of God I am at length enabled to announce an event of great importance to you, and to your children, and to the generations which may come after you in this place. It is my pleasing duty to tell you that a Church for the accommodation of the inhabitants of Cowling is about to be immediately built: nor is this all; I have grounds for hoping that the erection of a school will follow; and further still, that by the residence of a Clergyman among you, the full benefit of these blessings will be secured to you. For eighteen years have a few pious and benevolent friends of yours laboured for this purpose, some of whom after many hindrances and difficulties are spared to see their endeavours crowned with success: to some indeed this boon has been denied: your late respected Vicar would have rejoiced to see this day, which brings with it the fulfilment of an anxious wish of his heart. But God has been pleased to order it otherwise; and if he has by his removal from earth been deprived of this gratification, you have the comfort of believing that better things are provided for him, even the recompense of those who on earth followed peace with all men, who dealt their bread to the hungry, and covered the naked with a garment; and if it has been my privilege to enter on his work, a labour at the eleventh hour, I am chastened by the reflection that I at the same time succeed to much of the care and responsibility which its accomplishment will entail, and from which he has been set free. In the few remarks I am about to make, it is my wish to point out to your notice the duties which will be required of you in return for the great privileges thus vouchsafed, and I hope they will be received in the same spirit in which I have written them – the spirit of Christian friendship.
The Almighty in His holy Scriptures is pleased to represent Himself as dealing with men according to the improvement they make of the opportunities they may enjoy of knowing His will. He tells us He will accept of men according to that which they have not; and again, that from those to whom much is given much will be required. As, therefore, the means of grace in the ordinances of Christ’s holy religion will be brought nearer to you than they have ever been, even to your very doors, let me express my hope that they will be cherished as they deserved to be, with closer attention and more heedful reverence. The obstacles which at present hinder your township as well as many others from duly profiting by Church administrations, while they must be viewed with concern by every sincere member of that pure branch of Christ’s Catholic Church which is established in this Country, have arisen in part from circumstances over which neither the ministry nor the people have had control, and against which I acknowledge it has been difficult, nay, even impossible to contend. In your case, on the one hand, the long distance which separates you from your present Parish Church prevents you making that ready use of it which it was intended to afford; and on the other hand, the vast size of the parish , as at present constituted, effectually hinders that constant intercourse between the Clergyman and his flock which it is so much the interest of both should be carefully kept up. If it should be asked how this state of things has arisen, I should answer, that since the arrangements for the spiritual supervision of this Parish were first made important changes have taken place: population drawn together by manufacturing influence, while it has changed villages into towns, has converted a few straggling houses into a large village, and the provision that was no doubt once made for the pastoral care of the population, and which was originally sufficient for the work, has, by the mere alteration of circumstances (even if none of it had been diverted from its proper use,) proved inadequate to the maintenance of a proportionate increase in the number of parochial Ministers. It is not that arm of the Church of England has waxed shorter, but it is , that much has grown up, especially during the last century, beyond the reach of her existing machinery. But by God’s help she will not be unequal to the rapidly increasing claims which are being made upon her. If indeed, vital religion, obedience to the laws of our country, or even outward morality flourished where her light shined not, and where her voice was not heard, quite as well as where men submitted their spiritual interests to her guidance, it might be doubted whether we were justified in making any sacrifices to extend her influence; it might be a matter of indifference whether the rising generation of children might not be left to pick up any religion or none as it suited their own ideas, but the proofs are visible elsewhere as well as in your township that wherever the Church (from whatever cause) has not assumed her position as the teacher of the people, that ignorance of religious ordinances, disobedience to the laws, and profanation of the Sabbath day prevail to a fearful extent.* I am not now alluding so much to the ordinances or ceremonies of the Established Church, such as Confirmation, or the Thanksgiving of Women after Childbirth, or the like, but I allude to the neglect of the two Sacraments, those distinguished features of Christianity, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which the gospel has declared, and the best and wisest men in all ages of Christianity have confessed, to be generally necessary to salvation. With respect to the Sacrament of Baptism, the neglect of it among some of you, and the misconceptions of it among others, grieves me more than it surprises me; for having had the charge of a district among the Silk Manufacturers of Bethnal Green, in London, I have had the experience of the same sad results of a population having out-grown the provision made for its spiritual necessities, I pray to God that I may live to see in Cowling the increased means of acquiring religious knowledge embraced as hopefully as they have been in Bethnal Green*
As this letter may perhaps be read by more than I shall have an opportunity of conversing with, let me notice a few objections to Baptism, which no doubt you are familiar with, and which I have been accustomed to hear from others who were similarly circumstanced with yourselves. Some there are I am sorry to say who scruple not to despise the Sacrament of Baptism, thinking that it is incredible that a little water should have the good effects that are ascribed to it. Naaman the Syrian treated as a mockery the Prophet Elijah’s word, which told him that his dreadful complaint the leprosy, for the cure of which all human skill had proved useless, could be healed by the waters of the river Jordan, but the Prophet was right, and if God chooses to give the most beneficial effects to the simplest matter, ought it not to demand our gratitude; shall we cavil like Naaman and complain that we have not been commanded to do some great thing? Remember that the Church calls the washing away of sin by the water, mystical or mysterious, which means that she does not pretend to explain how it is done, but after all I cannot see anything more in it to move my wonder than the Acorn transformed into the huge Oak tree with its mighty boughs, and thousands of leaves. If the Almighty can and does give a small decaying seed a new body quite unlike itself, and to each different seed we are acquainted with, its own body, you need not disbelieve what the word of God tells you about the water in Baptism. Again there are others who do not go so far, but who argue that Baptism is of little importance compared to a change of the heart; the fact seems to be that the two things must not be separated, the one is the outward visible sign of the other; I will grant that mere Baptism without a change of heart will not ensure salvation* but then on the other hand I cannot understand how anyone can be really converted who does not desire to fulfil all the terms of the Christian Covenants; this surely must be the case with those who either refuse to receive, or do not desire to receive, the Sacrament of Baptism which seems to stand first and foremost among them. We are told this in so many words Acts xvi, 14—15. Lydia’s heart was opened that she attended to Paul’s preaching; the first effect was led to Baptism;
1).* On the other hand , after the out-break in the Manufacturing districts in 1842, the result of a special enquiry that was set on foot went to prove that no one connected with the Church Schools, Parent, Teacher, or Scholar, as far as could be ascertained, took part with the disaffected.
2) * The Parish of Bethnal green contains 70,000 Inhabitants, chiefly Silk Weavers; till about three or four years ago there were only two Churches, ten more are being built, some of which are finished with Schools to each, the number of Scholars has increased since their erection from about 600 to nearly 2,000
3) * The Church Catechism calls Baptism a state of Salvation, not salvation itself.
she seems to have partaken of the inward spiritual grace before she received the outward visible sign or seal; but if you examine carefully the book of the Acts wherein is recorded the establishment of the Apostolic Church, you will
see that such was not always the case, sometimes the reverse took place and the gift of the Holy Spirit came after Baptism, indeed it is so in three out of the five instances where the order of the two events seems to be distinctly stated.
I now come to some objections which I confess are entitled to more consideration, namely, the objections of those who acknowledge on e Baptism for the remission of sins but who differ form the Church as to the manner in which, and the time when, it should be administered. The subject is too difficult to be treated of in a brief address like the present, but I firmly believe that the doctrine of the Church on this point can be shown to be agreeable to Scripture. I will merely make a few practical remarks, which may assist you, with the blessing of God, in coming to a right understanding of the matter: first, then, it will be useful to bear in mind when you argue this point that the words which are so generally made use of in the controversy, namely, ‘Dipping,’ ‘Plunging,’ and ‘Immersion on one side, and ‘Sprinkling’ on the other side, are not (as relates to this Sacrament) Gospel terms, the word that is made use of is Baptize, which is a Greek word in an English form, and means, as near as we can give a meaning to it, wetting or washing without specifying the peculiar mode in which the water is to be applied. If there are instances of Baptism recorded in the New Testament from Which it might be inferred that the persons Baptized were wholly put under water, there are other I stances which render such a supposition very unlikely.* It appears to me that if water be applied for the purpose of Baptism by a lawful Minister, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, the quantity of water used can make no more difference in the value of that Sacrament than the quantity of bread eaten, and wine drunk, by a Communicant can make in the value of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. But after all the Church does not pronounce either mode to be the only right one, but, as you may observe by reading the Rubric in the Baptismal service says, “the Child is to be dipt in the water discreetly and warily if the Officiating Minister is certified that it can endure it.” As in this climate it is seldom safe, water being poured on it is declared sufficient; but all Church Fonts are or should be made large enough to hold the body of an Infant. As for the other of this latter class of objections, the age at which Baptism should be administered, surely if by the decree of God Himself, Infants were to be admitted into Covenant with Him at eight days old in the time of the Patriarchs and under the law of Moses,* there is nothing unreasonable in believing them fit to be dedicated to Him now at the same early age; it cannot have been intended that the Children of Believers should be worse off in this respect under the Gospel than they were under the law. But some say there is no text in Scripture which enjoins Infant Baptism; no, but if Jesus Christ commanded all Nations to be Baptized and if we do in the Acts of the Apostles read that they did actually Baptize whole households and families, we must, in the absence of any text against Infant Baptism, conclude that Infants were never meant to be Forbidden. There is no text which directly enjoins the observance of the Lord’s Day instead of the Jewish Sabbath; as far as it appears it is an ordinance of the Church, and as such, has been generally agreed upon by Christians: finally, if, where a positive rule and direction on the subject is wanting, the testimony of Christian antiquity be of value, by far the greater weight is in favour of the mode of Baptism observed by the Church of England. It will be at least confessed that Children cannot be worse for being Baptized; then why not be on the safe side?
I have dwelt at greater length upon Baptism because I feel very strongly about the subject, I will not say so much about the Holy Communion, for I hope that the Preparation for Baptism made by those of riper years will lead them to consult their Minister more particularly about it. My opinion is, that any person that can understand the nature of the obligations entered into at Baptism, and strives to live up to them, will be enabled, by God’s grace, to become a worth partaker of the Lord’s Table. It is recorded of the Israelites that after they had for many years been hindered in the Wilderness from duly observing the outward ordinances of their religion, when arrived in the land of Canaan, They lost no time in formally dedicating themselves to their Creator, Let me hope that in like manner all those among you who have not been admitted into Covenant with God by Baptism, should take the earliest opportunity after the Church is consecrated (if even they so long defer it ) of having this reproach rolled away from off them.*
1) * Acts ii, 41 Acts xvi, 33
2) * Genesis xvii, 12 Leviticus xii, 3
3) * Joshua v, 9
I have been asked by some among you who fear that considerable additional expense will be thrown on the Township of Cowling, how the Clergyman appointed to do the duty at the New Church will be paid. I take this opportunity of letting it be known that there was an Act of Parliament passed in the last Session, by which a large sum of money, arising partly from the suppression of certain appointments in the Church, was devoted to the payment of Clergymen who would undertake the spiritual care of Districts or New Parishes, such as it is proposed to make in Cowling. Small indeed will the stipend be, when the expense of a Clergyman’s education is taken into consideration, and the frequent calls that are made upon his purse; but still I hope that there will be found good and zealous men who will devote themselves to the work. I have also heard fears expressed concerning the future repairs of the Church. You must know, then, that there has already been put by a sum of money equal to 10 per cent. upon the cost of erection as a repair fund: unless anything unforeseen occurs, this will do all that a new and substantial Building will be likely to require for some time. I am in hopes that eventually your connection with the Parish Church of Kildwick will cease, and you will then only have your own to take care of. I beg your especial attention to the fact that the whole of the Sittings in the Church will be free and unappropriated for ever; there will be no reserved seats, except so far as they will be allotted by the Churchwardens to the Parishioners on demand. And if the instructions and superintendence of a Minister of God devoted entirely to you, and a Church provided freely for you, be valued as they ought to be, you will not let the Service of the Sanctuary be performed in an unworthy manner. I will add a few words on the conduct which I recommend to you as the best way of showing your gratitude for the privileges you are about to enjoy. You will soon behold rising up amongst you a fair Temple for the worship of your Maker, according to the forms and doctrine of that branch of the Catholic and Apostolic Church which is established in England. A large sum of money required to be raised before it could be prudently commenced has been obtained, but from whom? My friends, the greater part has been contributed by entire strangers to you: persons who never heard the name of Cowling until they heard it connected with its spiritual necessities, have shewn their piety towards God, and their good-will towards you, by assisting you in a matter which concerns your highest interests. Do not let it be said that the boon is offered to unwilling or insensible hearts; shew your gratitude to God and to the agents of his bounty by yourselves supplying what may be deficient in the building fund. I believe that no direct appeal to the Working Classes in Cowling has yet been made: one reason of which omission has been, that Trade has been for some time so depressed that it was thought you were not in condition to respond to it; but thank God that work is again plentiful, and I do now solemnly appeal to you, whether it be fitting that you should allow your own Church to be built, as it were, against your inclinations; I cannot believe that you will: most sincerely do I trust that you will shew symptoms of that good old Church feeling which is taking place through the land. I am aware that there are some of you who must be excepted from this invitation, some who differ as a matter of conscience so far from the Established Church that they cannot join in any of her forms of public worship, or avail themselves of any of her services; where this is the sincere conviction of the mind founded upon the best information a person had been able to obtain, I for one, although I may lament, am bound to respect their scruples, and to allow that the same conscience which is binding on all who enjoy the laws and institutions of England to support their Parish Church, that every thing may be done decently and in order, does not call upon them to subscribe towards a new one. But to all others, even those who differing in minor points agree in thinking the Church Prayer Book to be in conformity with the Gospel: to those who have knelt or intend to kneel before the Alter of God, either to receive the Holy Communion or to be united by His Minister to partners who will lessen life’s sorrows and increase its joys: to those who one day may stand around the Font to present themselves or others to receive the outward visible sign of the death to sin and the new birth to righteousness; to those who have listened to the words of eternal life within the Church, look for the time when they shall lie down in the dust beneath its consecrated walls. To all, even the poorest among you, who will hear in the new sound of the Sabbath bells a new call to prepare to meet their God, I say Do not let this Church be finished without adding your mite towards its completion. When you look on it in days to come let each of you be able to say “I helped to build it.”
The rich have given of their abundance, even Majesty graces the list of contributors, but I hope that list will not be finally closed till it has many such additions as the following :-
……….. A Working Man…………..one day’s labour.
Commending the Church, its future Minister, and all that belong to it, to your Christian love and care,
Your Friend and Minister,
John T.C. Fawcett, Vicar of Kildwick