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invasion of religious liberty by the great body of dissenters, the defeat of the bill is to be ascribed.
Latterly, however, the claims advanced on behalf of the church by advocates not less distinguished for their eminent talents than for their ardent zeal, have been of a nature very different from this. The government is now addressed in language such as follows:
“We ask you not to do anything; we only ask you to abstain from doing.” We do not say, “Give us predominance," but “Leave us alone.”
We do not say, “Give us a machinery to work,” for we have a much better one than you can provide; but, “Do not take away from us our machinery, do not distress and impede its operations." We say there is a power in the midst of you which the continental nations have not, which the wisest of them would rejoice to have.
We (the clergy] have a commission, and authority, and ability, to educate the whole mind of the country; a power of forming a nation, which those who would take upon themselves our duties do not and cannot possess.*
Again: “We have an education which assumes men to be members of one family—of one nation. If any persons like to be educated on that ground, we will educate them; if they do not like it, they must educate themselves upon what principle they may, for we know of no other, and will admit no other.”+
The statement thus put forth by a very able writer may fairly be taken to represent the opinions of a large body of the clergy, and of many influential laymen. And it must be admitted that the assertion of these
* Has the Church, or the State, the power to educate the Nation ? A course of lectures, by the Rev. F. D. Maurice, 12mo, Lond. 1839; pp. 129-30, † Ib. p. 172.
lofty pretensions is accompanied with such frank acknowledgment of neglect of duty on the part of a large portion of the clergy in time past, and with such zealous efforts at improvement for the future, as cannot but excite sympathy in the heart, however they may fail to produce conviction in the understanding.
Objections to this tbeory of ecclesiastical education.
I have no intention of travelling over the vast field of
argument which the statements I have quoted, more or less directly, involve. I content myself with adducing two (out of many) objections, either of which, as it seems to me, is sufficient to show that we have not here any answer to the question: "What is the duty of the State in respect of popular education?". The first objection applies to the groundwork of the theory itself; the second to the practical conclusions which are deduced from it.
I observe, in the first place, that this theory rests throughout upon the assumption that there is a body of men clearly marked out as descending by episcopal ordination from the Apostles, and constituting, by such descent, a distinct and separated class, divinely commissioned to preach the gospel, and christianize the world.*
This is an assumption which, when put forth by the clergy of the Roman church, appears in a coherent and intelligible shape. For whether true or not, it is a claim which evidence other than, and beyond, that of Holy Scripture must be called in to establish.
Protestantism, if it mean anything, does undoubtedly mean the distinct assertion of the right of private judg
* See Maurice, p. 140. This doctrine will be found fully and succinctly stated in the “ Tracts for the Times," vol. I. Oxford, 1834. See especially Nos. 1, 4, 7, 17, 24, &c.
ment in all religious matters—be they what they may -regarding which Scripture is either silent or inconclusive. And for this eason the doctrine we are regarding has been denounced by a considerable section of the established church in England as 'a leaven of Rome.'
The English church, in its territorial establishment, and in everything which constitutes its framework and machinery, is the creature of the State. The State constructed this machinery, and may alter it or construct it anew: and this without any detriment to the spiritual character of the church itself.*
Control or superintendence on the part of the clergy over general education is undoubtedly a portion of the machinery by which the church might be enabled to discharge its spiritual functions. But of those functions it neither is, nor can be, any integral part. Waiving then, for a moment, all objection arising from the insecurity of the very foundation of this important claim, it is further to be observed, that the whole superstructure is untenable unless it can be shown that the business of general education is a spiritual function in the same sense as is the preaching of the gospel. Is this meant to be asserted ? Is there an apostolical succession of schoolmasters as well as of priests? Or does the divine commission of the priest include within it that of the schoolmaster?
• “If all the prelates of the church of England were expelled with ignominy from the House of Peers, its revenues of every description taken away and confiscated to the public treasury......as a church of Christ, a church in the sight of God, it would have lost nothing, if it adbered to scriptural doctrine and scriptural ministry...... Its legal establishment is a human institution......and like all buman institutions it is at all times dependent for its stability on the continued approbation of human judgments.” Letter on the permanent security of the Established Church, by Dr. Gisborne, prebendary of Durbam.
If, on the contrary, it must be admitted that any direct and recognized powers which the clergy, as such, either exercise, or might exercise, in respect of education, are just as much a part of the machinery with which the State invests them, as is their parochial apportionment, it surely follows that such powers must be conferred and circumscribed in accordance with the laws which govern the State in its fundamental polity. Under what aspect then will these pretensions appear when placed in apposition with the two concurrent facts: -a representative government, and a people divided into a multitude of religious sects ?
For, view the question from what point we may, to this issue we must come at last. In the words of a distinguished Professor in the University of Oxford, “I would enquire what is to be understood by the State acknowledging the church to be true.' Does the State mean the whole nation? Dissenters as well as churchmen? Or, is it merely that the members of [a representative] government acknowledge their own individual belief? and yet are to compel the people to support it?......... We hear some contending loudly for the essential protestant and evangelical christianity of this country,' and opposing to the uttermost any scheme of education which they conceive violates this principle. But what is meant by this essential protestantism of England ? Does the country contain Papists and Jews, or not? Are they subject to its laws? Do they share its burdens? Are they admitted to its rights ?"*
These are grave questions. Some of them have been answered by the following candid acmission of a recent
• State Education considered with reference to prevalent misconceptions on religious grounds. By the Rev. Baden Powell, Savilian Professor of Geometry in the University of Oxford, pp. 59, 60.
writer in the Quarterly Review: “The circle of the State," he says, “no longer coincides with that of the Church, and to continue to act as if it did can only involve insult to the Church, and pain to conscientious dissenters, while it exposes the most sacred offices of religion to the charge of hypocrisy and falsehood."*
Again : to say that the Church asks of the State only to be left alone, 'to apply its own machinery to the education of the people,' is at once to misstate an historical fact, and to stultify concurrent claims, put forward by the same parties, and almost with the same breath. They who say 'Do not interfere with us, not only add, 'Give us money for church extension, but 'Give us money for school extension too.' Most emphatically then may we repeat, that in the pretensions thus advanced on behalf of the church-however deserving they may be, under certain aspects, of serious attention—we have no answer at all to the question : • What can the State do to promote national education?' although in reviewing them we obtain additional evidence of the absolute necessity that the State should do something.
I have already indicated my opinion that the course which this exertion should take is very plainly marked out by existing circumstances. While fully admitting that the value of voluntary effort in aid of popular education is subject to great fluctuation and to many drawbacks, I am yet deeply convinced that it has many advantages, for the loss of which nothing could compensate. It will then be the business of government to encourage, to aid, and to direct, not to supersede, such efforts.
Quarterly Review, No. 129, Dec. 1839, p. 148.