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not only is religion liable to perish among certain classes, but throughout the entire nation it ebbs and flows in successive periods. The eighteenth century, for example, appears to us now to have been a period remarkable for religious deadness; and faith after having revived in remarkable strength and warmth in the early part of this century, seems to be again on the decline. Now in voluntary churches, if faith become weak, the support of the Church system will languish, and there will be a want of power to carry Christianity safe through the faithless age. No doubt, at such a time the life of all the Churches declines, but this is aggravated under the voluntary system by the diminished maintenance of the clergy, and their consequently lowered qualifications and influence. Amongst the educated classes when the temporary eclipse of faith is over, it comes out again, and the life of the Churches is renewed, but amongst masses of the uneducated, religion may perish during the suspension of its ministrations. While all religious bodies experience oscillations of religious earnestness, the fluctuations are more violent in voluntary bodies, and affect more seriously the continuity of their influence in the country.
17. Nor is that influence as likely to be beneficial, as if they were either endowed or established. The deterioration to which the ministrations of religion are exposed by the ministers being made dependent on voluntary contributions, is so trite a theme that it is only necessary to glance at it. The support of the clergyman, whether it comes directly from his congregation or from a general fund to which all the congregations contribute, depends ultimately on his pleasing those from whom the funds come. For the
Church will so make its arrangements, as to gain for itself the largest amount of support, and this can be accomplished only by seeing that the ministrations to each congregation prove their efficiency by the hearty support which they elicit. What in such a system is the ruling power? Not exactly the rich, for in some cases they are not the most ready to contribute. There must be a religious sentiment prompting men to give, and sometimes those are most ready to give who have not the largest means. The religious sentiment, however, which prompts men to support their own religious body, is rather zeal for that body, than for religious motive and conduct in general; so that the ruling power in a voluntary Church may perhaps be described as the money power of sectarian zeal. The natural tendency of such an influence is to give to the ministrations of religion such a character as will most inspire and most gratify the sectarian zeal which is most productive of money. But though such may be the tendency, it may be resisted by personal independence and high religious principle in the ministers ; and therefore it is not meant to cast any aspersion on the ministers of voluntary Churches. Of course, however, a general tendency will make itself felt; and the tendency of the voluntary system is, by making the clergy dependent on the money power of sectarian zeal, to exaggerate in them whatever is most characteristic of the religious body in those members of it who are its most efficient supporters. This, as has been remarked by a great statesman, is apt to produce in Protestant bodies fanaticism, in Roman Catholic superstition, and in both priestcraftb. It may be added, that it tends in general to stereotype
• Sir G. C. Lewis on Irish Disturbances, pp. 401, 405.
the narrowness of sects, and to maintain their differences. These differences, too, are sometimes mingled with social and political principles, and then the religious sect becomes a political party, and the voluntary system aggravates social and political dissension. Where a voluntary Church, indeed, embraces the majority of all classes of a united people, the sectarian spirit may in a great degree disappear; and though there will still be a dominion possessed by the money power, it will not be accompanied by such intense sectarianism.
Thus in Scotland the prevalence of the money power in the Free Church shews itself principally in cramping thought among the clergy, and giving to Scotch theology its peculiarly narrow and stereotyped character. But in Ireland, where the spirit of faction has come down from the earliest times, religious zeal is peculiarly liable to take a sectarian form; and the voluntary system, which appeals to the spirit of sect, is naturally more productive of religious partisanship than elsewhere. There, too, religious and social questions are mixed together; and the great voluntary body, the Irish Roman Catholic Church, is a striking example of all the evils incident to the voluntary system. The money power in it is in the hands of the tenant, and the priest is obliged by the necessity of his position to be the tenant's partisan. Thus the most deeply-seated discontent of the Irish people, that which arises about the tenure of land, which has rankled in their breasts ever since the confiscations of Irish property, and is still the most fertile cause of lawlessness and murder, receives the sanction of religion. Not that the Irish Roman Catholic priesthood sanction crime. On the contrary, they use their most
strenuous exertions to keep it down. But they sanction the discontent from which crime arises. It is indeed the duty of the minister of religion to sympathize with the poor man, and to plead his cause and defend his rights, when there is no one else to do so ; and there is little doubt that the Roman Catholic priest is united to the Irish tenant by too many bonds of race, and class, and faith, ever to neglect this office. At present, however, he is so dependent on the tenant, that though he might himself be favourable to moderation, he is obliged to espouse the tenant's quarrel, not only sanctioning it, but engaging in it with ardour, and inflaming it by his fervid oratory; otherwise he will lose that hearty support of his people on which his sufficient maintenance depends.
There is no doubt also, that the dependence of the Irish Roman Catholic priesthood on the voluntary contributions of their people tends, as has been mentioned, to increase superstition in their Church. For it is to be observed that the poor contribute more in proportion than the richo, and that consequently the principal source of the income of the priesthood lies in the superstitions of the uneducated classes. If their income were derived in any degree from another source, they would be under less temptation to foster superstition among the people. This too would have a social and political effect, for the increase of superstition increases subserviency to the Pope and to Papal ideas, detaching the body of the Irish Roman Catholics from English politics, and hindering them from coalescing with their fellow-subjects. The endowment of the Romish priesthood would tend to draw them towards the State, and make their in
• Sir G. C. Lewis on Irish Disturbances, p. 409. . .
fluence on the country more in harmony with its civil principles and the direction of its progress ; for it is not too much to say, that the voluntary system as existing in the Irish Roman Catholic Church aggravates all the worst features of Romanism, and intensifies all the evil effects which religious differences have ever occasioned in Ireland.
It is alleged indeed by the advocates of the voluntary system, that that system is necessary in order to keep alive the activity of the clergy. Now it would hardly become a minister of an established Church to meet this objection by an assertion, that the ministers of endowed and established Churches are quite as zealous in the discharge of their duty as those of voluntary Churches. Whether the fact is so or not should be easily ascertained, and it may be left to observation to decide it. But it is certainly absurd to argue for the superiority of the voluntary system from the zeal and attractive preaching which is generally found in proprietary chapels in connection with the Established Church; for though these are on the voluntary system, the religious earnestness which creates and maintains them has been engendered by the ministrations of an established Church ; and the evil effects of the voluntary system are kept down in them only by the habits of thought and feeling which the ministers have as members of an established clergy.
18. If, then, the establishment of one Church, with a view to bring over the other religious bodies into conformity with it, be as regards this end useless; and if the voluntary system be both defective and pernicious, there only remains as a mode of dealing with the aggregate of the religious bodies, the system of general endowment. And our axiom, applied to the