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nation into conformity with the Church of the legislature, is to establish that Church, and either urge the people to conform to it by inflicting penalties for nonconformity, or else having brought its ministrations within reach of them, to leave to it to gain them over, when no other religious ministrations are provided for them. Both methods have been tried by the State without success. Religious differences are too deeply seated to be much affected by the presence of an established Church. Every religious body has peculiar habits of religious thought and feeling and worship which enter into the religious nature of its votaries, and are consecrated by the most sacred associations. Peculiar circumstances may indeed break their spell over individuals, and original minds may rise above them, but with the mass they enter into their very idea of religion, and are beyond the reach of controversy. The State has no weight of authority with people in such matters, and the simple establishment of a Church leaves the Nonconformist bodies untouched.
14. If the legislature attempts to universalize the beneficial influences of the Established Church by pains and penalties, it either effects nothing, or else defeats its own object. For penalties can produce conformity only by leading men to violate their own sense of duty and religion in order to avoid temporal disadvantage; and it can hardly be considered a beneficial influence which begins by attacking and subverting the basis of moral obligation. The children of those who had conformed from such a motive, would indeed inherit without shock to their principles the religion which had been imposed on their parents; but they would inherit along with it a tradition that the subject should take his faith from the ruler. Such a principle become traditional in a nation would establish the worst form of slavery, the slavery of the mind, the bondage of thought beneath the oppression of the civil power. It is not in this country that such a servitude would be submitted to. Both the English and the Irish people have asserted their religious independence of the civil power, by holding their religious belief despite of penalties and disabilities; and have finally established the principle, that it belongs not to government to decide for the people what they ought to believe. It is vain therefore for the legislature to aim at bringing the whole nation into conformity with its own religious system; and it must legislate on religion with some other view.
15. Shall the State, then, adopt the voluntary system and leave all the religious bodies to themselves, without meddling with them either by endowment or establishment ?
The voluntary system, if judged by the axiom which I ventured to lay down, fails in every respect. It secures neither universality nor permanence of religious influences, and it exposes those influences to a deterioration of their quality. This has been so often pointed out that it need not be dwelt on here at any great length. The voluntary system appeals to the faith of the people, and where this is wanting it has no basis. Now it is often said that religion is a necessity of human nature, and that wherever man is there will be faith in a religion or a craving for a religion. This is not true, for it supposes conditions which are not always present. The great source in human nature of religion and of a craying for it, is the sense of God. In proportion as men are
sensible that they live in the presence of deity, and feel their dependence on divine will, they will recognise the importance of knowing God and obtaining His favour; but if this principle lose its strength the want for religion is less felt. In the earliest stages of human progress the sense of deity is always strong, for natural laws are then unknown, and all occurrences in nature are attributed to the immediate action of deity. Then, too, man feels himself a dependent being, for be has not yet invented arts whereby he may guard himself against the accidents of life ; and accordingly religion generally governs the whole life of uncivilized nations.
How different is it in our present condition of society. An immediate act of deity is now thought of as a miracle; and all events are attributed to second causes. In the country, indeed, where the great pageant of the seasons is ever passing before the eyes of man in beauty and bounty, filling his heart with food and gladness, and where the works of man are less seen, nature still speaks to him of God, though in a voice which may easily be drowned; but in the great centres of industry and population all is human. Both in country and town the industrial organization of society enables men so far to secure themselves from the accidents of life, as to make them feel their dependence on a superior power much less than uncivilized nations; and unless the religious sense be quickened by the truths of revelation, God is neither seen in nature, nor trusted in life. With this weak. ening of the natural sense of God, the future life also loses its pressing interest; for the great anxiety which it occasions arises from the sense of God as judge, and the apprehension of His justice. Those classes of society, however, who have leisure to read and think, are brought into contact continually with the religious ideas which have penetrated literature, and as long as the basis of their belief stands, these stir their souls and awaken religious wants; but the classes who have neither leisure nor education, if they become aggregated into unmixed masses, and are left to supply themselves with the ministrations of Christianity, are in great danger of losing all religion and all desire for it. That this is no imaginary danger, may be seen in many of the great towns in England, in which large masses of the population are usually said to be in a state of heathenism ; a most incorrect description, for heathendom is for the most part intensely religious, these without any religion at all.
Nor is it only ignorance to which the existence of such classes is due. Sin also is a fruitful source of practical atheism; for by reason of its natural aversion to the purity of religion, it rejects religion and tends to separate from those who are governed by it. In large cities the criminal population is thus apt to a certain degree to draw together, settling down as dregs of society, excluding the influences of civilization and religion, and transmitting through successive generations a dark inheritance of irreligion and sin. There are intermediate classes between these and the classes which have a sense of religion sufficiently strong to create a demand for religious ministrations, but to all of them it is evident that the voluntary system is wholly inapplicable. The voluntary religious bodies could not even make any missionary effort to Christianize them, without abandoning the voluntary principle; for the missionary ministers should be paid by others than those to whom they ministered.
The advocates of the voluntary system, indeed, reproach the English Church with the existence of these classes ; because they have arisen under its pastoral care of the nation, and because having arisen the Church has not been able to extend its ministrations to them. So far as they have been constituted by degenerate members of other religious bodies, it is hard to charge their irreligion on the Established Church, for no amount of zeal on its part could affect those who kept themselves separate from it; and as to those who have degenerated into these classes from the Church itself, it would be hard to prove that the Church has contributed more in proportion than the other religious bodies, or indeed that the real causes to which these classes are due, are such that the religious bodies are answerable for their condition at all.
No doubt it is the special duty of the Established Church to minister to those who have not chosen for themselves any ministrations; and it is a just reproach to the system of the Established Church, that it has not proved more pliant in adapting itself to their wants. But it is quite idle for the advocates of the voluntary system to make this the ground of an objection to the principle of an establishment, till they can shew that the adoption of a Church by the State to instruct the nation has an inherent tendency to leave certain classes of the nation uninstructed. This is evidently the case with the voluntary system in reference to those classes who have no effective desire for religion. It fails by virtue of its essential principle in providing a universality of religious influences for the country.
16. It also fails in respect of the permanence of 1 those influences; and this is a serious defect. For