« НазадПродовжити »
nonster his object is the sincere ich has, withe aff
ciation, that we are induced to drag forth that body from its obscure notoriety, and to bring its constitution, its principles, and its action, under the cognizance of the members of the church.'—English Review,' No. xix. p. 120.
Now this confession we believe to be true. The whole cast of the paper which it is brought forward to justify, proves its truth. That paper is intended to frighten churchmen, not to answer the arguments of dissenters. It would have borne a different character, if the latter had been its object. But that was not its object. Its object was to dress up and paint a monster which would appear particularly terrific to Anglican eyes. This object is wrought out with considerable skill; and we suppose many of the 'sincere and devoted’ are now trenbling before the ghostly figure which has, with pious care, been stuffed for their benefit. With this part of the affair we have, however, nothing to do. We are simply concerned with the plan of action thus exposed, as accounting for the selection of topics for animadversion, which our author has made. To our minds it accounts for this selection most fully. The choice exercised in this matter is just such an one as would most naturally suggest itself to a person who had no desire to enter into the true merits of the case with which he pretended to deal, but who was anxious to avail himself of the prejudices on his own side of that case, which prevailed among those to whom bis appeal was addressed. There is some excuse for this politic proceeding, the case being emphatically one of the kind in which,
• To be direct and honest is not safe.' After making the statement we have quoted, relative to the motive by which he was led to compose this article, the reviewer proceeds to trace the history of the Association which forms its subject. He discovers its origin in the agitation which was occasioned by the proposal of Sir James Graham's Factory Education Bill. To the opponents of that bill, he most unjustifiably attributes the following sentiment, as descriptive of their opposition :
• Rather than run the risk of the additional influence which this Education Bill may give to the ministers of the hated state-church, let us doom thousands and tens of thousands of factory children to ignorance and to eternal ruin. Perish their souls ! rather than that the church should flourish.'—Ib. p. 132.
This sentiment is rightly designated as 'ferocious ;' but the ferocity belongs to the man who invented it, in order to bring a false accusation against his neighbours, and not to those in
whose mouths it is put. Has not the Church of England, in days gone by, strenuously opposed schemes for national education, which abstained from giving the additional influence' to its body, embraced by Sir James Graham's bill? It has. And would this slanderer think it just to accuse the members of the church, in these instances, of dooming thousands and tens of thousands of children to ignorance and eternal ruin?' The cases are parallel, as far as his argument is concerned, with this difference against his application of the argument, that the church opposition was purely sectarian in its character, while the opposition of dissenters was directed by a desire for equal liberty only. In the face of these facts, we are warranted in affirming, that the accusation under our notice is not honestly preferred, inasmuch as it would be repelled with indignation by its author, if brought to bear upon similar conduct to that which it reprobates, as practised by his friends. In the very number of the 'English Review' containing this slander, it is said :
• We are not satisfied with any system of national education, which votes a farthing for the direct support of heresy and schism. Nay, we consider such a measure to be diametrically opposed to the first principles of our constitution, in church and state." — English Review,' No. xix. p. 228.
This, under the circumstances, is a somewhat startling utterance : but instead of retorting the charge about 'perish their souls,' and so forth, we will give our author the benefit of a defence devised for such characters as he, by a son of his own church :
• The saints may do the same things by
Hudibras, Part ü. Canto 2.
We come now to notice the religious principles which this reviewer attributes to the conductors of the Anti-State-Church Association. He thus enters upon that part of his subject :
· We look in vain in their principles for anything beyond that of destruction : in vain for any elements out of which another, even though it were an erroneous system of religion, might be built up, when they shall have succeeded in levelling the structure of ages with the ground. While the gospel serves as the pretext for their aggression upon the church, they are not themselves agreed what the gospel is; nay, it is evident that any positive form of belief, even if they were prepared to give their assent to it to-day, would not be admitted by them as a permanent standard or symbol of truth. The privilege of denying everything, if it shall so please them, of being bound by nothing, is the only tangible idea which runs through all their statements and arguments : this they hold to be the very essence of religion, even that liberty wherewith Christ has made us free.''-English Review, No. xix. p. 133.
This description is at once true and untrue.
It is true that the object of the Anti-State-Church Association is destruction. That is its professed object. It seeks to destroy the connexion existing between church and state. That it does so, is not its fault, but its glory. It regards this connection as an evil,-a scandalous and dangerous wrong, -and its members are but discharging their duty to society, when they unite together to remove that evil. That the principle on which they unite, is destructive, only tells to the discredit of those who have rendered destructive efforts necessary. Were there nothing which ought to be destroyed, this charge of destructiveness would amount to a just accusation; but as the case stands, the destructiveness is honourable, in proportion to the fidelity with which its measures are adopted and pursued. Does the gentleman who urges this objection, mean to say, that a course of action should be reprobated, merely because it is destructive, whatever be the character of that against which it is directed ? If not, he has used the word destruction, in the instance before us, in order to deceive his readers as to the point of accusation he prefers.
But the most important part of his accusation is untrue. Ho represents the destructiveness which his opponents bring to bear against the state-church system, as characterising the religion they profess. Now this is not the case, and he knows that it is not the case. It is not consistent with fact, that they hold the privilege of denying every thing, if it shall so please them, of being bound by nothing, to be the very essence of religion. This investigator may have looked in vain,' in attacks upon the establishment theory, 'for any elements out of which another, even though it were an erroneous system of religion, might be built up;' but he must be well aware that this was not the proper place to look for anything of the kind. The advocates of the Anti-State-Church Association carefully abstain from introducing the interest of their own religious views as the ground of their advocacy. This is one of the avowed conditions on which that aürocacy is conducted. No one could read their publica. tions without being fully aware of the existence of this condition. The principle of voluntaryism is the only common principle of their society; and it is a misrepresentation of the essential character of that society to pretend that it is responsible for the construction of any system of religion. Bad, however, as this misrepresentation is, the one which transfers the negative rule observed within the pale of this society, to the religious opinions entertained by the members of the society themselves, is much worse. This latter misrepresentation could not have been made in ignorance. The writers and speakers of the Anti-State-Church Association are, for the most part, well known to possess distinctive religious views, which they do not hesitate to assert on all legitimate occasions. It is very evident to every one who knows anything about the matter, that the destructive efforts they direct against all state interference with religion, have, as to their destructive tendency, nothing to do with the nature of the religion they individually cultivate. A more shameless libel upon them could scarcely be stated, than that they regard such an absurdity as the privilege of denying everything,' to comprise the very essence of religion. It may be the case with this writer, that every society to which he thinks proper to unite himself, directly expresses his sectarian belief, but he has no right to make his own illiberality in this respect the standard by which he judges of others.
There are two religious principles which our reviewer detects in the publications examined by him, and with which he is especially offended. The one may be called the anti-creed principle, and the other the anti-infallibility principle.
The former of these principles is thus expressed in a quotation given in the Review from Mr. Grant's Tract, entitled The Church of Christ – What is it?'
• It is plain that the supreme tribunal to decide this cause, is a man's own private judgment, and that the Bible is to be the statute-book by which this decision is to be regulated. Every one's own conscience is to test all church pretensions by the standard of God's word.'
This principle is shown, by the aid of another extract or two, to result in a variety of development as far as the church is concerned. The 'supreme tribunal does not pronounce the same judgment in all minds, nor, indeed, in the same mind at all times. Upon this state of things we are treated with the following dictum :
Such is the painful vagueness to which men are reduced when walking by the light of their own understandings, they separate the word of God from the living witness to whose keeping he has committed that word, and from those life-giving ordinances by which he has made provision for the nurturing in oneness of faith and spirit, because in oneness of life with himself, those who are willing to seek the grace and
truth of God humbly, reverently, obediently, and by faith, in the way prescribed by God.' - English Review, No. xix. p. 134.
So much for the auti-creed principle. The anti-infallibility one may be sufficiently gathered from the following statement, forming part of a quotation taken by the reviewer from a tract by Mr. Morris :
• It is impossible not to believe that we are in the right; but it is improper to believe that we cannot but be. Decidedness of belief is perfectly compatible with the stern denial of infallibility; and we are bound to cherish a constant and candid spirit of enquiry by the very grounds on which we have received, and do hold our actual faith. Whatever tends to check this spirit is a serious evil.'
The important part of the comment made upon this principle is contained in these sentences :
· Viewing truth as all the professors of such doctrines do, as a production of the human mind, the material of which is taken from the Bible, but the fashion supplied by man himself, nothing, of course, can be more consistent than this perpetual scepticism underlying every con. viction, even at the moment when it is most firmly entertained; nor can anything more clearly demonstrate the total absence of that which alone gives to religious truth, substance, and reality in the mind of man, the effectual operation, the conscious and abiding presence of the Holy Spirit.'— English Review,' No. xix. p. 136.
We have taken some pains to give, by means of this selection, a fair, though it is necessarily an abridged representation of the collision of sentiment with regard to religion existing between this reviewer and the writers whom he assaults; and we shall now beg leave to make a remark or two of our own upon the merits of this case of religious opposition.
We have then, in the first place, to say, that if our author's principles were correct, and the principles he controverts were incorrect, this circumstance would be of no importance to the real question with which he has to do. Let it be conceded, for argument sake, that the word of God ought to be taken in connexion with 'a living witness to whose keeping it has been committed,' and that 'to be willing to adopt fresh views of religion, if they possess the necessary proof of being right views,' and thus 'to keep the heart open to every intimation of the Divine will,' is to demonstrate the total absence of the effectual operation of the Holy Spirit;' let this be granted, and yet it does not by any means follow, that the living witness' should de patronised by the government, or that 'the operation of the Spirit should be assisted by legislative anthority. Those are the true points in dispute, and they are not touched by this talk in favour of creeds and infallibility. A church when discon