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that is so admirably organized; that does so much work with such comparatively small resources, or that is so ably and effectively represented in its officers; and we are confident that it is scarcely possible for any public body to be animated by a juster or a more unsectarian, catholic, or earnest spirit. It seems to be decided, or rather the Religious Liberation Society, née the British Anti-StateChurch Association, seems itself to have decided, that all combined political action must in future flow through its channel. Some channel there must be, and it would be a very difficult matter just now to find another, much less a better. We believe it does every work that it is asked to do; nearly always does it well, and often does it for nothing! What more can the most unreasonable person demand? Yet most 'gift-horses' are “looked in the mouth, and why not this? What has this society done that warrants it in making, as it has recently done, a demand for moral and pecuniary support from all sections of Nonconformists?

We have been told ourselves, when we have been urging its claims upon the attention of a few personal friends, that it has sown division in the ranks of dissent. True, and yet not true. True, that, for a time, the ranks have appeared a little divided, but not true that the society has intentionally sown division. Remembering the weak, tame, cowardly, purposeless, and dependent thing, that was called Dissent less than a quarter of a century ago, one ought not to be surprised that the birth of a new spirit in its little world should have occasioned a little disquietude. There were aged dames of both sexes, who were confident that God had forsaken his tabernacle; and who held

up their hands in pious horror at the sound of the word 'politics.' There were respectable Whiggish Dissenters who, seeing that no one of the great traditional families had espoused it; that it could not, and was not likely to, boast a single Russell

, Grey, or Elliott on the Executive, stoutly proclaimed that it was democratic, and that they had nothing to do with it. There were quiet' Dissenters who thought it was too noisy. There were charitable Dissenters who thought that the Church contained a great deal that was good, and therefore that it was not right to speak against it. There were mercenary Dissenters, who thought it would injure their trade if they were to connect themselves with it; and there were indifferent Dissenters, who did not care about it;—all these were more or less opposed, and the division was very apparent. But the men who commenced the movement were no ordinary men. Descended in pure Puritanical descent from the early political Nonconformists, they shrank not from their work. They knew that their truth was a truth of God, of as divine a descent as any that had been revealed in Person, book, or nature. They guarded, defended, and battled for it as for an ark with its tables and Shekinah. And what has been the result? They have not materially altered a single expression in the declaration of their fundamental principle, and they have not discontinued any one of their very first modes of agitation, yet the leading members of every old section of Dissent have voluntarily and spontaneously given in their adhesion to the society. As


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one result, therefore, of its operations, Dissenters were never more united than they are now. Formerly, there was nothing to unite them. They have now a great and noble principle for which to contend, and have trusted leaders to guide and direct them.

This result, however, would have been of no practical value if it had not tended to advance more ultimate aims. Union is worth nothing in itself, or for its own sake, and, therefore, no organization that has any real work to do will look to it as to an end. Mere union was never one of the objects sought for by the Liberation Society. If it had been, we do not hesitate to say, that it would not have attained it to anything like the extent that now characterises Dissent. Its one object was stated to be the liberation of religion from State patronage and control. What has it been able to effect towards the accomplishment of its own proclaimed purpose ? In answering this question we shall, by implication, answer the other question—what claims, if any, has this society upon the support and confidence of Dissenters ?

The British Anti-State-Church Association began its work, many years ago, by first seeking to indoctrinate Dissenters themselves with what has since been called the Anti-State-Church principle. This was undoubtedly thinning, to the sharpest possible degree, the wedge that they hoped one day to be able to drive home. Many would have imagined that the Nonconformists of Great Britain could need no indoctrination on such a subject. But the executive of the Association had a better knowledge of their brethren, and therefore did not hesitate to begin at the very beginning by issuing a Nonconformist's * Catechism. In doing this, they certainly avoided the mistake which the late Mr. Horner once charged upon Mr. Brougham's first attempts in favour of political reform. It is amongst the very sincere and zealous friends," he said, 'that you will find the most perfect specimens of wrong-headedness, men of a Dissenting, provincial cast of virtue, who will drive a wedge the broad end foremost, utter strangers to all

а prudence and moderation in political business.'*

To this teaching of elementary principles there followed a systematic exposure of the practical evils of a State establishment of religion, and to this a series of practical suggestions. We do not mean to say that years of agitation were deliberately mapped out on this plan, although, to some extent, for aught we know, this may have been the case ; but such, to our view, was the course taken by the executive. In doing this it no doubt adapted itself to the changing aspects and feelings of the great body of Dissenters,—an adaptation which the admirable nature of the constitution of the society rendered much less difficult than would have been found to be the case under other circumstances.

The first direct Parliamentary action of the committee was initiated in the year 1853, after the return of Mr. Miall and others to the House of Commons. It seems hardly possible that it is only a little more than four years ago since this society was organized into a poli



• Horner's Life and Correspondence, chap. x.

tical party, so much has it accomplished in this short space of time. A brief summary of its accomplished facts' is given in a private circular lately issued from the office of the society, bearing the signature of Mr. Edward Miall, chairman, Mr. W. Edwards, treasurer, and Mr. J. C. Williams, secretary. We presume we are not infringing on the strict rules of etiquette in quoting from it here. The writers say, we think without any exaggeration :

'It is allowed by all who have any acquaintance with the subject, that the opening of Oxford University to Dissenters, and the giving them free access to academical degrees at Cambridge, carried through Parliament in opposition to the Government, were mainly due to the active exertions of this society.

'It contributed material assistance towards obtaining the extinction of the Regium Donum in England, and of ministers' money in Ireland; it initiated a movement for the impartial disendowment of all sects in Ireland, in favour of which upwards of 120 members of the House of Commons, either by voting or pairing, have declared themselves.

' In reference to the abolition of church-rates it has succeeded in converting a minority of forty-eight into a majority of forty-three, and has thereby extorted from an unwilling Government a pledge to bring forth a measure for the settlement of the question. Meanwhile it has helped, and still continues to help, by means of its publications, and of the legal and other advice it has afforded, to extinguish the rate in a great many parishes.

The recent satisfactory changes in the laws regulating the interment of the dead were introduced at its instance, and carried through by its influence. And it has carefully watched all measures having an ecclesiastical bearing which have been introduced into Parliament, several of which it has modified, and some of which it has successfully opposed.'

They add :

"To this direct action of the society upon the Legislature, the indirect influence it has brought to bear upon the composition of the House of Commons ought to be added. For several years it has carried on correspondence with almost every borough in the kingdom open to popular contest; has collected accurate information; stimulated registration; and acted as a medium of introduction and communication between constituencies and candidates; and this with such decisive effect, that at the last general election, sudden as it was, the society was able to increase considerably the number of its Parliamentry friends. This department of its work it continues to pursue with unflagging perseverance.

It has now acquired a solid reputation. The misconceptions and prejudices which retarded its earlier movements have disappeared. Many Dissenters who once stood aloof from it now render it hearty support. It has accumulated a valuable stock of political and legal information. It has improved its machinery, and works it every year with increased facility. Its correspondents, located in all parts of the kingdom, never were só numerous as at the present moment. Public officials recognise its influence; and it has established a high character for ability and business capacity in the House of Commons.'

But the society has, in our own estimation, done more than this. It has not only created a political party amongst religious Dissenters, and contributed to the reform of all our ecclesiastical legislation, but it has succeeded, perhaps, without any expectation or intention on its own part, in creating a party of what, for distinction's sake, may be termed political Dissenters; that is, not chapel-going Dissenters or Nonconformists, strictly so called, but Dissenters on political or merely moral grounds, not from the theory, but the working of a State establishment of religion. Men of this class are now to be met with everywhere and in every section of society. They were, perhaps, in one sense of the word, Dissenters before they heard of the Liberation Society, but its action alone has, so to speak, discovered them. It is this class, and not chapel-goers, who have carried the abolition of church-rates in large towns; it is this class that elect the radical members of Parliament; and it is this class that will ultimately force the separation of the Church from the State. Nonconformists usually work from different motives, with different principles, and often with different weapons from those adopted by this large and increasing body of statesmen and politicians, but they ought everywhere gladly to welcome their aid, and cordially to accept any offer of co-operation from them. Working together, they may come to understand each other better, and from such an understanding the best results may be anticipated.

Upon this review we can frankly say that we know of no other, not to say better, way of advancing the ‘Politics of Dissenters than through the agency of this society. It has hitherto ably, honourably, actively, and consistently represented them. In this, and not in any mere abstract or sentimental profession, consists its claim upon the earnest and practical support of the whole body of Dissenters in this kingdom. We believe its aim to be the highest aim of Christian statesmanship, and its action to be above suspicion; and we know that its present resources are miserably inadequate to the labour it has undertaken. In liberally and heartily contributing to its support, we believe that Christian men and women will do more to advance the progress of personal Christianity in these realms than they could do in any other similar way. For there is nothing that so effectually obstructs the rapid spread of Christianity, and nothing that has so grossly misrepresented its character to the world, as the Church with three Masters—Christ, CÆSAR, AND MAMMON.

One word before we close to the executive of the Religious Liberation Society. We do not know, but we are afraid, that their one great defect has been their modesty in asking for money. We earnestly pray of them to cherish this feeling no longer. We have ourselves a pretty fair knowledge of the country, and we believe that if a personal appeal on behalf of the society were made to Dissenters generally, they would at once respond to it. With plenty of confidence -such as secretaries of missionary societies are not usually deficient in -and a well-organized band of agents, we are confident that the income of the society would soon be increased by some thousands above its present amount. This, however, is not an article on the practical working of the society, and we will therefore leave this branch of our subject for discussion in some future number.

On the whole, the politics of Dissenters appear to us to be looking up. Their principles and aims are far higher than we have ever known them to be; their tone is more elevated; their immediate objects less selfish ; and the modes of action by which it is sought to accomplish those objects far wiser and better considered than any of which the Nonconformists of this or any previous generation have been able to boast. There is, therefore, every reason to express our most devout acknowledgments to the Mighty Disposer for the past, and to take courage for the work and the reward that lie hid in the future.

Kingsley's and Helps's Poems.

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We do not know how it may have befallen with you, dear reader, but we are not yet cured of expecting. We expected' much more than we have found in both the books we are about briefly to introduce to you,—not, we fear, without showing a little irritation at having been baulked of the delight we looked for.

Oulita, the Serf' (the title, we remark in passing, has a very common-place, third-rate, melo-drama sound with it), is published without any author's name attached; but it is well known and publicly stated to be the work of Mr. Arthur Helps, the author of Friends in Council,' and Companions of my Solitude,' and the History of the Spanish Conquest of America. In any case, the authorship of the • Tragedy' could not long be a secret, for there is no mistaking the tone of the reflections on the conflicts of our poor human nature with the awful facts that clip us round with a ring of iron. We must not be charged with writing nonsense and offering information that does not inform, if we put down, for the instruction of readers not acquainted with Mr. Arthur Helps's manner, that he is a genial-acrid, melancholy-cheerful, believing, generous sceptic. We only fear that the word sceptic may be here and there misunderstood; but there is no other word which will suit our purpose, and we use it without any reference to Mr. Helps's attitude towards Christianity. All men, whatever their positive faiths, and whatever their religious trust, feel the burden and mystery of life;' other things supposed equal, the finer the intelligence and the moral nature of the individual, the more heavily the


* Andromeda, and Other Poems,' by Charles Kingsley. Parker. •Oulita, the Serf;' a Tragedy. Parker.

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