« PredošláPokračovať »
tinguish the idea that our public institutions, as our private economy, should be Christian; and to introduce for the first time a principle which, if it threatens small present evil, is pregnant with the most fearful consequences for the future. The introduction of the Jews into parliament would be the triumph of the degradation of the state into a machine for traffic and police.
But supposing such a practical problem arose as the combining into one and the same state a large Christian with a large heathen population on equal conditions, we confidently assert that a satisfactory settlement of it would be impossible. Christianity is absolutely exclusive of all paganism, and never can coalesce with it on even terms: it must proselytize, and proselytizing in such a case would be discord, conflict, war. No permanent relations could be founded, except those of mutual exclusion. Christianity would go on converting the heathen mass; when it ceased to do so, subjugation or separation would alone become possible. Separation of course would be infinitely preferable to subjugation; or where two independent states could not be formed, the emigration of the weaker party. On these grounds we avow, that if, as many persons a few years ago thought, we believed Roman Catholics to be idolators, we should be among the most strenuous advocates of the repeal of the Union; so deep is our conviction of the irreconcileableness, as coordinate elements, of idolatry and Christianity.
One particular consequence of the Archbishop's theory we must not omit to notice. Upon his principle an established church is unjust and indefensible ; it would soon be disconnected with the state. What then would be the position of the various religious communities in the land ? If the state thought itself bound to provide for the religious instruction of the people, it could proceed only on the principle of proportional payments to all the sects—Jewish and heathen, as well as Christian: the synagogue and the Hindoo temple would alike be entitled to their share. The Archbishop must accept this conclusion, or do violence to his own doctrine. Then again, in the Christian communities, the force of cohesion within them would be immeasurably weakened. The state is the proper point de rattachement for a church.
The fact that a particular church has been adopted by the political society, and that it performs for the country functions that are necessary for the well-being of society, constitutes a powerful claim on every citizen to belong to it, as long as he can conscientiously do so. If he is dissatisfied with any part of its institution, and so becomes tempted to secede from it, he is met by the grave consideration of the services it performs by being the church of the nation, and is pressed to seek rather its amendment than his own personal advantage in uniting himself with a religious body which he may in some respects think superior. The state-church is thus endowed with a superiority of right, one strong additional claim, above those religious societies which are founded merely on the agreement of a certain number of individuals; and hereby a broad foundation for the church is obtained. But without a priesthood or a state-church there would be nothing but rival sects, built on assent to certain formularies, or approval of a certain ritual by their respective members, but bitterly jealous of each other, precisely because none would have any positive outward title to superiority. For our part, the absence of a priesthood in Christianity, and the consequent necessity of founding government on the nature of a community, would alone, and apart from all other considerations, convince us of the extreme importance of an established national church, as a centre of unity and a bond of obligation for the better grounding of that obedience which is necessary for the existence of a regular society.
It remains for us now to state our view of the proper relation between church and state ; but we regret that want of room prevents us from giving at present anything more than a very brief sketch. We hold with Hooker that they are different names for the same society, considered under different relations. This is the ideal state, the normal condition of both. In the perfect state, where all the citizens were truly religious men, and agreed in the same doctrinal opinions, no distinction could be drawn between one portion of the state's duties and another; they would all be religious, all performed with reference to God. And thus the same institutions whereby the sovereign power acted in temporal, would be also the organs of its operation in spi
ritual matters. But obviously this ideal form can never be realized on earth. Still it is the ideal standard ; if it holds out a good that we can never reach, it also points out the road along which we must travel. In proportion as we approximate to it, we are pursuing the path of right practice and true theory. For the identifying then the state with the church, as far as human life will allow, an established church is a necessary instrument. By means of it the religious society and the nation would become one. This, however, can never be fully attained, for we can hardly hope to see all Christians united into one society. And since in a national church the religious society and the nation are one, and since, further, all the powers of government in a church are derived from the religious society, it follows that a national church is merely one great department in the organization of state, in which all the powers of government and all commissions to office are derived solely from the authority and appointment of the state. A national church must rest on two cardinal principles : it must be founded on the basis, not of what all agree to be true, but what all agree to be exclusive of Christian communion. On every other principle the state would not be justified in unfairly excluding citizens from sharing in the privileges and advantages of the national church. This comprehensive character, however, from the constitution of man, would soon be lost, unless the church were furnished with such an organ for legislative action as should enable it from time to time to revise its institutions, and to adapt them so as to comprise within its pale as much as possible of the Christianity of the land. Progression is the law of human nature; and every society, to continue vital, must have a machinery suited for the fulfilment of this law.
The second cardinal principle of a national church is independence. Temporal power is daily the prey of irreligious men. A church that had no power of permanence within itself, that depended on the pleasure of the government of the day, would soon lose all religious life. But this independence of the church must be built on no false ground. Apostolical succession, and every other theory that would invest the clergy with an intrinsic indefeasible authority, are but foundations of sand. The whole building, if raised on such foundations, must soon crumble to ruins. A national church must be built on institutions which should be held sacred, as constituent organic elements of the state. Such organic elements derive their authority from the constitution; but by the sacredness with which they are invested, and the shrinking which men feel from interfering with them, except under the pressure of extreme necessity, they confer permanence, stability and independence on the vital functions of the state. Such a body is the House of Lords. Our day has seen its existence perilled, and the right of the nation to modify or extinguish it freely asserted; yet the principle of permanence triumphed, and it still survives, in unimpaired vigour, to discharge its important functions in the constitution. Such another is the church of England ; and if we think that it has lost many members by the immutability of its forms, we are also sure that the evil has not been altogether without compensation. An independence, a high tone of authority, reaching from the highest personages in the realm down to the lowest, and a dignified boldness in the exercise of its duties, have thereby been secured, which have proved of the utmost value to the interests of religion. The safety and the effectiveness of the church depends on the harmonious blending of these two principles.
It may be asked, what course is to be pursued, if the nation should be divided into so many conflicting sects that none could, on the ground of numbers, claim to be made the national church. No general answer can be given to this question, but we at least may say that such is not our case. Our dissenters are relatively few, and there is every prospect that their numbers might be greatly reduced, if a wise policy were pursued. And in any case, national support to each religious body, in return for religious and educational services, would be infinitely more desirable than the severing religion from the national functions.
It may be urged also, that many object to an established church, and think the voluntary principle the only right one in the appointment of ministers. Those that hold these opinions may be divided into two classes. Some maintain that every other but the voluntary principle is absolutely opposed to the will of God, and is in itself immoral and sinful. Such persons are few; but it is clear that they cannot connect themselves with an endowed church. All that can be done with them is to disprove, if possible, the grounds on which they have come to such a conclusion. But the far greater number are persons who only prefer the voluntary principle, who think that it works best for religion, and for the reason of its expediency should be adopted. Such persons, we conceive, differing from their fellow-churchmen only on a point of administrative detail, would not be justified in thinking this a sufficient cause for secession, except indeed in the improbable case of the forms of an established church having lost all vitality, and all hope of reviving their spirit being lost. They have a right to press their views by all lawful means, and to strive to bring about the abolition of endowments. Neither would it be difficult to combine much of the practical part of the voluntary principle with an endowment. But it would be to overthrow the foundations of all society if we were to recognise a right of secession, founded solely on differing opinions respecting the expediency of particular modes of administration.
Finally, we may be told that our views are visionary and impracticable, because experience forbids all hope of a comprehensive church. On this point we join issue. We deny that this assertion has been proved: it is a fact that there are a great many sects, and that they show but small inclination toward mutual reconciliation ; but we reject the inference as unproved, that they have a necessary imperishable existence. The assertors of this conclusion are bound logically to make out that these sects do not owe their origin and continuance to some accidental cause, by the removal of which they would be dissolved. They must further show, that with respect to the sects actually existing, the attempt has ever been made to ascertain whether they are the effect of such accidental and removable causes, and that the experiment of a comprehensive church has ever been tried honestly and in earnest. And lastly, they must establish, by an examination into the very nature of Christianity, the scientific deduction, that the existence of many and large sects is objectively founded on the very essence of that religion, and that it has no common truths capable of being apprehended by almost all its professors, and of serving for the basis of one common