« AnteriorContinuar »
and of duty. One calm and sober view of the eccentricities of "faith, judgment, and feeling, even among those professing to take revelation for their guide, is enough surely to show candid and reflecting men what need there is of humility, forbearance, charity; to lead all such to rejoice that a church, which they must admit has the main body of the truth, is making her way through the land, and overcoming sin and error in their strongholds. Thus far at least the friends of truth and enemies of bigotry, persecution, infidelity, and wickedness, have a common cause and the same foes. How can they expect to conquer with the sword of Midian ? How shall they prosper and prevail, except they “hold the faith in the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace ?"
A principal objection to the national church has been well answered by the Rev. H. McNeile. “We deny that any dissenter is compelled to support our religion. He is compelled to pay tithes and rates, by which the external machinery of our church is supported, but this is a very different thing from supporting our religion. True, the civil ruler, when he receives the taxes, appropriates a portion of them to the support of the church, but this is his act, not the act of the man who pays the tax. This distinction will be made manifest to all, by considering for a moment whether the apostle would have exhorted his Christian brethren to support idol worship: on the contrary, an apostolical exhortation is, keep yourself from idols.' But we have seen that the apostle did exhort his brethren to pay tribute to Cæsar, although Cæsar, when he got it, appropriated a portion of it to the support of idol worship. That was his act, not the act of the man who paid the tribute. It would be monstrous to say that every man who pays taxes to a governinent is responsible for its every act. No; the subject is responsible to God for the duty of paying the tribute, and the government is responsible to God for the duty of appropriating that tribute. The government receiving taxes may, in one or more instances, make an erroneous, unjust, and unjustifiable appropriation; but the conscience of the man who pays the taxes is in no way implicated. His pocket is assailed, indeed, but not his conscience. This is a most important distinction, not for the dissenter only, but for us all.”—Lectures on the Established Church.
Although our wants, affections, and desires, are all roused into activity to ward off the evils of poverty, and on the contrary, are in a great degree opposed to religious impressions, the nation is nevertheless taxed to the amount of several millions annually for the relief of the poor. Is poverty then a greater and more universal evil than sin ? Is temporal want more to be dreaded than everlasting ruin? Does our care for the poor extend only to the grave ? Shall the nation grant millions annually for poor-houses, food, and clothing, while places of Worship, and whatever else relates to our condition as immortal beings, is to be left to the voluntary and therefore precarious support of individuals ? In its maintenance of an army and navy, in its provision for the administration of justice, and the general management of our foreign and domestic policy, the interference of the government is felt to be necessary, and the objections of the minority are overruled for the public good. And shall not the authority and resources of the government be employed for an object the best, the noblest, the most essential to our individual and national welfare ?
The early nonconformists, as Owen, Howe, and Baxter, men of undoubted piety, zeal, and charity, while they dissented from the established church, on other grounds, admitted its necessity and importance
as a national institution, for the diffusion and maintenance of vital Christianity. With a quotation from Baxter's beautiful exhortation to the nonconformists of his day, I shall now conclude.
“If you love the comMON GOOD OF ENGLAND, do your best to keep up sound and serious religion in the public parish churches, and be not guilty of any thing that shall bring the chief interest of religion into private assemblies of men merely tolerated, if you can avoid it. * * * * * * Let us, therefore, lose no possession that we can justly get, nor be guilty of disgracing the honest conformists (or churchmen), but do all we can to keep up their reputation for the good of souls.”
SOCIAL INFLUENCE OF POLITICAL
The will of the majority-The periodical press-Manners
In the United States the legislative and the executive powers are so dependent on the will of the majority of the people, that the majority may be said to rule, which is a democratic but a false principle. The multitude is a capricious and IRRESPONSIBLE master. In its calmer moods it may follow what is just and lawful, but it is easily excited, and when roused and impelled by strong prejudice and passion will commit enormous wrong, without reason, or pity, or remorse. Where there is a powerful and enlightened government, which honestly aims to promote the public welfare, even in opposition to the will of the majority, mobs are awed and subdued and their ringleaders are punished. But it is otherwise when the people have assumed the sovereignty, and have decreed that their will shall be paramount. Then they will act not only through their regular legislative assemblies, but they will sometimes do what they please, and with impunity, in their irregular and turbulent meetings, where the dictates of
judgment, and mercy, and conscience, are overborne by temporary feelings, whether right or wrong..
Many examples might be given of this wild exercise of irresponsible power in America. In the year 1812, a Baltimore mob sacked the printing office of a newspaper which opposed the war with England, assaulted one editor and killed another. The offenders were tried, and the jury acquitted them. Thus, through the tyranny of the majority, the liberty of the press was interfered with, innocent blood was shed, and the guilty were set free, in open violation of the laws of the country. There were the riots in New York and Philadelphia, when the houses of the abolitionists, the schools and churches of the black population were destroyed, the public approving or omitting to punish those flagrant enormities. There were similar riots at Cincinnati; and in the less civilized districts, there have been executions by what is called Lynch-law, not unlike the summary executions at the lamp posts of Paris, during the revolution. Miss Martineau, after describing a breach of the peace, which happened during her stay at Boston, and an assault on some of the advocates for the abolition of slavery, mentions that no prosecutions followed. She asked an eminent judge, why, and whether there was not a public prosecutor, who might prosecute for a breach of the peace. “He said, it might be done : but he had given his advice against it. Why? The feeling was so strong against the abolitionists; the rioters were so respectable in the city, it was better to let the whole affair pass over without notice.” Thus the ordinary safeguards of freedom and innocence are rendered unavailing by the arbitrary will of the people.
M. De Tocqueville truly and beautifully remarks, that men are not fit to be entrusted with unlimited power; "and that omnipotence properly belongs to