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seen its facts grouping themselves under his contemplation by their natural relations, till at length truth unveiled to him her divine form, ever after to be satisfied with the formulæ of traditional authority on any subject which really interests him. Whatever engages his earnest attention is quickly stripped of the coating with which opinion may have covered it, and germinates and fructifies in his mind into new forms by virtue of his pervasive habits of originality. These spreading influences of new thought place religious conceptions continually in new lights and alter their forms, and when knowledge is on the increase no authority can escape being challenged by them. They had been leading to the Reformation long before it took place, by making the intelligent laity less submissive to the teaching of the Church, and the clergy less sincere in maintaining it; and when the Reformation did take place, it gave a powerful impulse to the movement of which it formed part. The great questions which were opened in theology and politics by the repudiation of the old authority of the Church passed into the most profound speculations in psychology and philosophy, which all necessarily appealed to human reason as the judge of truth. In those serene regions of abstract thought the sovereignty of reason was admitted without question, for these were her proper sphere, where no rival could intrude to dispute her dominion. And the philosophers having proclaimed the sovereignty of thought, and its own triumphs having established its right to rule, the independent dignity of private judgment came to be generally acknowledged, until at length it passed into an axiom of general belief that it was the right and duty of every man to judge for himself on every question which concerned him, or if he had not the qualifications and leisure which this required, to choose for himself what authority he would follow.
This principle, indeed, had long been partially admitted, but it was so imperfectly applied that long after men had asserted for themselves the liberty of thinking freely on religion they continued to deny to others any right to differ from them. In truth, the right of private judgment supposes that the judgment shall be formed with care and candour; and in religion, when differences of belief arose, it was natural that men should at first find it difficult to acknowledge in opponents such carefulness and fairness of thought as might justly claim toleration for their opinions. The noxious and evil nature attributed to religious error suggested of itself that it could not have resulted from careful and candid thought, because, if so, effort guided by pure motive would have been productive of sin. Besides, faith involves always so much of feeling and practical motive, that religious belief depends much on sentiment and habit, and is therefore often difficult to account for. Religious feeling and practice convert into first principles the beliefs which they take for granted; and these first principles accordingly differ with different habits of sentiment and action. Differences of religious belief thus frequently arise from difference of fundamental axioms; and each party is unable to understand how a candid thinker could fail to see the self-evident truth of its own axioms, or be imposed on by those of the other party. Such considerations may help to account for the fact that for a long time the votaries of private judgment tolerated no judgment except their own. But this narrow
bigotry gradually declined as free thought established its dominion, and as circumstances helped the growth of toleration.
Gradually, as the heat of controversy cooled down, it began to be felt that the differences between the religious bodies in their statements of doctrine were often so subtle as to be scarcely capable of distinct apprehension; while the learning and ability of the Nonconformists made their opinions respectable, and the purity of their lives gained general sympathy for their conscientious convictions. The Revolution and the Hanoverian Succession were triumphs of the principle of free national choice over that of authority, and tended powerfully to establish the liberty of thought and the rights of conscience throughout the nation. The progress was slow, but it has now nearly reached its consummation. Men are now suffered to choose their religion for themselves, and their choice is respected. Religious differences are not now regarded as involving want of candour or sincerity. Religion itself has become less dogmatic and exclusive. The subtleties of controversy and definitions of Christian doctrine have lost their old importance; and now the earnest love of truth and loyal allegiance to conscience are honoured as the very crown and flower of all our culture. This being so, the old principle of religious establishments seems to have in a great degree passed away; and the question arises whether all religious establishments should not pass with it.
9. Now such questions with regard to ancient na-. tional institutions are to be discussed, by examining the causes to which those institutions are due, and the essential principles which they involve, and by inquiring whether those causes have vanished and
those principles become obsolete, or whether they still have their analogues amongst us, which still require the ancient institutions, with perhaps some modifications. It is only by pursuing this historical method that we shall so order our reforms as to make the future harmonize with the past, and so preserve our social continuity, that our progress shall not break that tradition of social and civil ideas on which our order depends. It is for this reason that it has seemed to me necessary to look narrowly into the ideas on which established religions have hitherto been founded, and the change which has taken place in those ideas, in order that we may the better judge whether the time has come for the State to adopt some other method of dealing with religion, and what that method ought to be.
Now it appears from this review that established religions arose originally out of man's need for religion, and the necessary connection between religion and civilization. Religion was recognised as being good in itself, and attended with the divine blessing, as well as naturally and most intimately connected with the order and development of civil society. It was felt that it belonged to the civil ruler, that in securing for his people all that might make them happy and great, he should provide for the universal and permanent diffusion amongst them of this highest good, and guard for the ministers of religion whatever was necessary to enable them to cultivate it. In ancient times the religion of the ruler held dominion over the spirits of his subjects; and subsequently, under the growing authority of the Romish Church, there were added to these principles of established religions an exclusiveness and intolerance which gave rigoup to the system; and as these have passed away, the policy of the state has become less rigorous towards the religion of its subjects. But the original reasons for which religion was established have not passed away. It is still the highest good of man, still promises the divine blessing, and is still the soul of our civilization. Amid all the boldness of free thought amongst us, and the decline of dogma and authority, this conviction still dwells in the heart of the nation. It is not, indeed, the State religion only which now is thus prized. Many forms of religious belief prevail amongst us, and to each of them its own votaries ascribe all the highest attributes of religion. To all of them that are founded on the Bible or on the teaching of the Christian Church it must be conceded by all that in themselves they are in the main good, that they surely do not exclude the divine favour, and that they tend to purify the heart, and civilize society. These considerations are important in the development and application to the present time, of what may perhaps be accepted as a fundamental axiom, of the duty of the State in supporting religion. For if we abstract from the old principle of Religious Establishments the dogmatism and intolerance which are not essential to it, we shall arrive at an axiom which seems scarcely to admit of dispute.
That axiom is, that it is the duty of the civil power to provide for the universality and the permanence of the beneficial influences of religion throughout the nation, and so to make its provisions that the highest possible amount of benefit may be secured.
10. Is it necessary to prove that every form of Christian belief amongst us, however we may differ from its doctrines, is yet in the main a good ? that the