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On the General Principles of the Establishment and En.
dowment of Religious Bodies by the State, with special reference to Ireland.
1. The question of the Establishment of the Irish Church has been raised,
2. and of Church Establishments in general.—3, Establishment different from Endowment.-4. Objections made to both.-5. Office of the Civil Power in reference to religion in primitive times,—6. subsequently to the introduction of Christianity,—7. and at the Reformation.—8. Change of ideas affecting it since that time.-9. Present aspect of it, and statement of an axiom in reference to it.-10. Most of the forms of Religious Belief which prevail in the nation should be preserved by the State as good in themselves,–11. and good in their effects.-12. Legislation on Religion may take three directions.—13. The attempt to bring the nation to conformity by the simple establishment of one Church, vain,-14. by pains and penalties either vain or noxious.-15. The Voluntary System not applicable to all classes,-16. nor in all periods,-17. deteriorates the ministrations of Religion.-18. General Endowment recommended.— 19. The nation needs besides a special Organ to lead its Religious Thought and Life ;—20. and this must consist of the Ministers of Religion.21. These Clergy need for the performance of their office that they shall include a fair share of the foremost ability and education of the country,–22. that they shall be free from undue restraints on their life, -23. and on their teaching in reference to Christian duty,--24. and to Christian faith.—25. The Clergy to lead the nation must belong to the Church to which the intellectual and social leaders of the nation belong.– 26. That Church should be established universally and permanently throughout the country as the National Church.—27. Application to Ireland.—28. Alleged Anomalies in the Irish Establishment.
1. The question of the Establishment of the Irish Church has been fairly opened by the systematic attacks which have latterly been made on the system of her endowments; and it demands a free and full examination as a great constitutional question. It is not by the traditions of ecclesiastical or political parties that that question should be judged, but solely in re
ference to the good of Ireland as an integral part of the United Kingdom. For as the good of the nation is the only end for which a national institution ought to exist, it is only as conducive to that end that its existence can be maintained with justice or defended with honour. The Irish Church disdains to save her position in the constitution by clinging to the skirts of the English Church, or appealing to the Act of Union. She depends not on the patronage of English Churchmen, nor even on the pledge of a national compact; and if her connection with the State as the Established Church of Ireland be not for the good of Ireland, let that connection be severed at once.
2. It is not only, however, this Irish question which has been raised by the attacks on the Irish Church Establishment. For the quarter from which those attacks come, plainly reveals that the Irish Church is assailed because it is looked on as the weakest of the Established Churches, and with the ultimate prospect that its downfall will be followed by the downfall of the others. This indeed is distinctly intimated by Professor Goldwin Smith in his very able work on “ Irish History and Irish Character," the last sentence of which is “In Ireland, where the members of the dominant Church are in a small and hopeless minority, and the Establishment is clearly a political evil, the great question of Church and State will probably be first raised with effect, and receive its most rational solution." The attack on the Irish Church is but the opening of the war against all religious establishments, which perhaps for many a day will engage the struggles of political parties; and it is in connection with this general question, and as bearing on its ultimate solution, that the Irish Church question should be viewed. Indeed, the Irish question can be treated only by applying the general principles of Church Establishments to the particular case of Ireland; and it is, therefore, those general principles that I would now consider, noticing their application to Ireland at the present time.
3. It is necessary in the first place to explain what constitutes a Religious Establishment; and it is especially necessary to distinguish this from mere support with funds supplied by the State. In Ireland, for example, the Presbyterian ministers receive support from the State, yet Presbyterianism is not the established religion. The State contributes to the support of the Presbyterian minister when a sufficient congregation has chosen him for their pastor, but it provides itself the ministrations of the Established Church for all the nation. And this adoption of a Church by the State as its organ for the religious training of the nation, and the provisions which are made by the State for its due performance of this office, are what constitute the establishment of a Church. Exclusive endowment is no necessary part of Church establishment; but on the contrary as the welfare of the entire nation is the object for which government exists, the adoption of one Church as the State Church, presses all the more forcibly on the attention of the civil power the claims of those who conscientiously decline that Church's ministrations. The question of a Church Establishment brings with it the consideration of the general principles, on which the State should deal with all the religious bodies which may exist in the nation, and it is on such a consideration that this essay proposes to venture.
4. It is indeed held by some that the State ought not to meddle with religion at all, that religion is every man's own most private concern, in the management of which he ought to be left altogether to himself, and that the religious bodies into which the nation may resolve itself need nothing from the civil power but the protection of their religious liberty. It is said that religious establishments are but the relics of a system of thought which has long since passed away, and that though it might be unwise in some cases to subvert such old and deeply-rooted institutions, yet if viewed in the light of the ideas of the present day, they are simply indefensible. It is argued that the Established Churches owe their civil position to the Papal system, and that as that system moulders away they should fall with it, their original foundation having been found inconsistent with the progress of Europe. Now it is quite true that there are few subjects on which the change of thought that has accompanied the advance of knowledge and the development of civilization has been more marked or more indicative of general progress, than that of the rights and duties of the civil power in reference to religion; and it may be useful to glance at the course of that change of thought, in order to see whether the reasons for State Churches and State endowments of religion have passed away, and to ascertain what are the present bearings of the functions of civil government on the maintenance of religion.
5. Religion as a phenomenon of human life is coeval with social union. For if man when first his powers open finds himself a member of a family, he at the same time either inherits a religion or in the