THE CHURCH AND SOCIAL REFORM

AuthorR. H. Campbell
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9485.1961.tb00156.x
Publication Date01 Jun 1961
THE
CHURCH
AND SOCIAL
REFORM
IN
recent times both friends and foes
of
the organised Church have
been concerned with what happened
to
its power and influence, or
even on quite a lowly level to its membership, during the rapid
increase in population and urbanisation in the nineteenth century. The
problem may be tackled from different standpoints.
At
one level the
study may be quite factual, of the numbers lost by emigration, or
of
the unfavourable contrast between the proportion attached to the
Church (and consequently under its influence) in the rural
areas
against
that in the new industrial concentrations. Whatever the type
of
analysis the conclusion now accepted is not that the Church lost the
urban masses but that it never had them at all. But further, the study
may take a deeper, more critical and more argumentative turn
by
suggesting that the Church was unaware of the problem, or,
more
accusingly
still,
that it did not care.
To
many this failure to answer
or
be
concerned with the pressing needs
of
the new industrial society
rather than any outright rejection
of
the faith through materialist
influence explains the undoubted defection from the Church’s ranks.
Dr. Mechie’s study1 is a notable contribution and corrective
to
thinking on these issues. His first
two
chapters give an excellent
introduction to the social and economic history
of
his
period.
There-
after the book examines, generally, but by no means exclusively, in
biographical form, the contribution of a few churchmen to social
reform. Inevitably and rightly Chalmers takes pride
of
place,
but
the less well-known appear too-James Begg and Housing, Patrick
Brewster and Chartism, Henry Duncan and Savings Banks, John
Dunlop and Temperance, Stevenson Macgill, David Stow, Thomas
Guthrie, Norman Macleod, and others. Properly poor relief and
education are reserved for more extended treatment because these
were fields in which, as
Dr.
Mechie says,
the Church could not be
ignored by any citizen, not even by those who rejected
its
teaching
and separated themselves from its worship and fellowship
’.
To
anyone, more particularly to Scottish churchmen, the
book
provides a worthy and inspiring record of achievement. Yet
it
still
leaves the feeling, and it is one
Dr.
Mechie himself implies in his
closing paragraph, that the record, for all its achievements, may be
regarded as one of lost opportunities. Except
for
wondering
if
social
Stewart
Mechie.
The
Church
and
Scottish
Social
Development,
1780-
1870.
Oxford
University
Press,
1960.
25s.
137

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