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On the principle of the voluntary support of religion, the lecturer professes his conviction that his allies are one. But this is a unanimity which is of little worth; for while the voluntaries pretend to be of one mind as to the nature of the support to be extended to religion, there is among them an infinitude of diverse opinion as to the nature of the religion which ought to be supported. “We avow our desire (continues the Doctor) to bring back the Church in this respect to the New Testament model ;" at the same time that he has afforded us no definition what the Church is, or what is a Church, and had spoken before of three different models, and intimated that the New Testament is not explicit in its preference of either, much less decisive in its settlement and application of one ; therefore the unanimity as to the voluntary support of religion, religion itself being undefined, is a species of uncertainty and equivocation which even Pyrrho could not have dreamed of.
Dr. Chalmers, in his lectures, had etched out a mournful picture of the condition of the times, which was not at all pleasing to Dr. Wardlaw, who contradicts the representation with all his energy. He says, “We live in good times—auspicious, promising times-times pregnant with mighty, and, I trust, happy results;" and the happiest result of all, in his opinion, will be the separation of the Church from the State.
Peradventure age generally considers the past as a better and more prosperous era than the present; but though this be the case, and we do not wish to be needless alarmists, we cannot join in the lecturer's triumph. That our times are pregnant with mighty results, we as firmly believe as he can do; and we as sincerely trust that these results may be happy ones; but we cannot proclaim that the times are good and auspicious ; good may be brought out of them, but it will be by the fiat of that Providenee whose prerogative it is to bring good out of evil, rather than by their own natural operations. We live in times in which men are rent asunder by violent extremes of opinion, motive, feeling, interest, and party; and extremes have no direct tendency to happy issues.
As it regards the separation of the Church and State, if it be the Church that is allied to the State, neither the alliance nor the separation can change its nature. If that which is allied to the State were the Church before and during the alliance, in the event of the separation it would be the Church still; and as to this simple fact, Dissenters would gain nothing in argument by the separation.
Dr. Wardlaw asks, “ Does Dr. Chalmers really believe, that in avowing our hostility to Establishments we are so reckless of principle as that “all systems are alike in our eyes ?'”. Now we are sure that the one Doctor has quite as much charity as the other; and we do not think that one man ought to be blamed because he draws a fair and justifiable inference from the language and reasoning of another. We will not say that all systems are alike in the eyes of Dissenters; but we do say that it seems to be so. At any rate, if a multitude of persons refusing to acknowledge and abide by a standard by which religious differences may be adjusted, and to
which some of the wisest, best, and most learned of mankind have deferred, are yet resolute in defending a number of contrary systems invented by themselves, such defence must necessarily partake largely of selfishness, and there is reason to apprehend that if the supremacy of the Church were to be destroyed, that selfishness would end in cruelty and outrage; a universal moral dominion none of these systems could hope for, and therefore usurpation would be sought after
In reply to the charge that Dissenters are aiming at the destruction of the Church, Dr. Wardlaw utters many fine things, which would come with a much better grace from our lips than from his. He tells us that “ The gates of hell shall not prevail against it ;" of which we might with propriety enquire, “ Sayest thou this of thyself, or did others tell it thee of us?” For if such be the stability of the Church—and it is not of his Church that the lecturer speaks, but of ours-if the promise be rightly applied, he has parted with his claim to it. We glory in this promise, and believe it to have a plain and definite bearing, and are assured that as it cannot be applied but to the one Church, that Church is the only safe Church io which it really belongs.
Next here follows this remarkable interrogation : "Is it necessary for us to repeat, for the hundredth time, that the Establishment of the Church is not the Church itself ?" No, it is totally unnecessary; but, upon our honour, we do not remember to have met with so many repetitions of this truth-nay, we do not remember to have once met with the truth itself till now. We indeed have been obliged to repeat it many times in the examination of these lectures ; but we protest that this is the first time we have discovered that Dr. Wardlaw is its author. But let him repeat it for the hundredth time, or for the thousandth, what can he gain by it? It is an argument against himself; it proves that the Church, though established, is not unchurched by its establishment, and that, in forsaking it, he and his party have sacrificed the former to a speculative opinion relative to the latter. For as a writer, who has no sympathies whatever with the Established Church, justly observes, assuming that the Church is a definite, visible, and recognised body, that “ he who does not belong to the Church of the place where he resides, cannot be said to belong to the Church at all.” Indeed, it is here that the horn of the dilemma obtrudes itself. Allow that the Church is a visible known body-known by the same marks in every age—and then, unless Church fellowship be esteemed an indifferent matter, we see not how it is possible for sectarians to excuse themselves.
The lecturer proceeds to apologize for the motley crowd who make common cause with Dissenters, and with whom Dissenters make common cause. He complains that Dr. Chalmers, and the friends of the Established Church, would place the Dissenters in a very awkward predicament, “precluding them from doing, on religious grounds, what they conscientiously believe to be essential to the benefit of the Church, because there are men, of no religion,
who, on political grounds, act for what they conscientiously or professedly believe to be to the benefit of the State.”
Are, then, the benefit of the Church and the benefit of the State to separate ; if not diametrical, that, while the one is to be left in the hands of religionists, the other is to be given over to the pursuit of men of “no religion ?” This is separation of Church and State with a vengeance. The Doctor did well to say “conscientiously or professedly;" for, in truth, we have not a very high opinion of the conscientiousness of men of no religion. Religious people themselves are, it is to be feared, sufficiently selfish ; but men of no religion are infinitely more so, and have pursued, and will pursue, it with recklessness.
Again, it is said, “ The very subject of the controversy, the union of Church and State, necessarily renders it a State question as well as a Church question, and draws into the discussion and prosecution of it political partisans as well as Christian advocates.” This is true enough as far as it goes; but surely the Church part of the question and the State part are not so far removed from each other but that they may be entertained by the same class of individuals! To assert the contrary, is as much as to say, that none but infidels ought to have any concern with the affairs of State: a doctrine which, despite the march of intellect, men are not prepared to adopt. If Dissenters are determined to preserve the co-operation of men of no religion, they may, perhaps, do wonders; if they will but abide by the piety and good sense of the nation, their scheme of Church and State separation must be negatived by a large majority.
Again, it is said, “ It does not follow, that because political infidels, or even Atheists (if such there be), are friends to the Establishment abolition, the friends of such abolition are either Atheists or infidels, or disposed, on account of such coincidence, to regard with an indulgent tolerance the principles of infidelity and Atheism.” No; but it does follow that bad men will espouse bad principles; and, if the Establishment abolition be so good a principle, how is it that bad men, infidels and Atheists, invariably espouse it ? It may be contended, that the motives of these men are widely different from the motives of orthodox Dissenters. Granted that they are. pose that, in the end, these infidels and Atheists should be able to carry out their own hidden designs, in as great a degree as, if not in a greater degree than, orthodox Dissenters would be able to carry out their ostensible ones? In such a case, what should we have to thank Dissenters for; or what would they have to thank themselves for ?
The Doctor then goes on to treat of the means by which the Voluntaries propose to attain their object. He says, “ There are two classes of means in our power—the one pertains to us, as subjects of the kingdom of Christ; the other pertains to us, as subjects of the British Government.” The first class of means is comprehended in the word enlightenment. “Our motto (says the lecturer) should be, ENLIGHTEN! ENLIGHTEN! ENLIGHTEN!'”
We have but one reply to offer, which is this "Physicians, heal yourselves.” “ Pull out the mote from your own eyes, and then shall ye see clearly to pull out the mote from your brother's eye.” Dissenting enlightenment is as a rushlight held to the sun.
The other class of means is political agitation and parliamentary petitioning; and the Doctor confesses, that many among the Nonconformists scruple to have recourse to this class of means at all, which is a direct admission that the distinction so often insisted upon between political and religious Nonconformists is valid. If we mistake not, the number of Dissenters that fight shy of political agitation is greatly on the increase : the violence of the leaders in that agitation has disgusted many otherwise staunch friends. There are also many Dissenting ministers who have never associated with the rash in their abuse of, and enmity towards, the Church ; they occupy the position in which they stand as ministers, rather through an unfortunate opposition of circumstances than by choice. It must be confessed, that, as it regards the expenses of collegiate education, they are calculated to shut many poor and worthy men out of the ministry of the Church. It is a fact, that many zealous and useful men among the clergy have had to borrow the money to defray these expenses, while there is, or was, a society in London which afforded assistance to needy, but deserving and talented persons, whose minds were directed towards the ministry. Some, perhaps, would say to, and of, the non-political and Dissenting ministers referred to, why do they not come into the Church as lay members ? Undoubtedly this conduct would be the most consistent with true charity; still it is hard for an individual possessing respectable ministerial qualifications, and who can be and is useful, and whose soul is in his labour, to be compelled to encase himself in silence and oblivion. Thorough political Dissenters can never come into such a situation ; theirs is a warfare of another kind.
Some discussion is entered into as to Church property at the conclusion of this lecture, though the views of the lecturer are singularly confused. He maintains, among other things, that the Regium donum is a blot upon the Dissenting character; and, in so doing, is perhaps rather too severe towards his own party. However, let him deprecate it as loudly as he pleases, notwithstanding all his eloquence and influence, he will not easily bring Dissenters to relinquish it; while, if any member of the legislature should venture to propose its being withheld, no doubt a furious outcry would be raised against him.
The Doctor urges that all Government grants of property made to the Church may be reverted to the source whence they came, and ought to be, if the legislature should esteem it beneficial for such a reversion to take place. But as these grants were made to the Church, if the Church is of the same nature, and occupies the same position now as she did at the time these grants were made, the case of reversion is not so lucidly made out as Dr. Wardlaw thinks. It is true Government has authority to enact laws; but where is the law of caprice? If the Church rightly uses these grants, according
to the tenor of their bestowment, what justice is there in recalling them ?
“ As it regards all private bequests, the simple question ought surely to be what was the will of the testator?” To this we fully accede; but no sooner had the lecturer given utterance to the foregoing, than he talks of the restitution of property which our Church had abstracted (a polite term for theft) from the Church of Rome at the Reformation. But what was the will of the testators of this property? Did they bequeath it to the Church of Rome because she was the Church of Rome ?-because they loved her errors, and wished them to become, and continue to be, universal? No; these errors did not then appear to be errors. They bequeathed the property to a Church, to the Church, under the conviction that she was the Church of Christ. As to her principles, she was a Romish Church ; as to her locality, she was an English Church. The property, therefore, belongs to the English Church.
How strange are the misconceptions that cross men's minds. If the establishment of the Church in our nation were to be dissolved, then, according to Dr. Wardlaw's logic, though the Church would remain an episcopal Church, she would cease to be the Church of England. What then would she be? If England have a Church, that Church must be the Church of England ; unless, indeed, in sweeping away her establishment, they would sweep away the name of our country too.
A. B. E.
SORROW AND MERCY.