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if I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost part of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.” The most enlightened nations of antiquity never ascribed omnipresence to their deities. They had “lords many and gods many,” that ruled over distinct territories, assigned them by Jupiter or the Fates. Neptune swayed his potent trident over the briny deep, and caused the subterranean thunders to upheave the solid land; or he smoothed the furrowed brow of the tempest-tossed ocean as it rolled in fury its foam-crested billows to the shore. The vine poured forth its purple flood under the superintendence of Bacchus. The hills and valleys were clothed with golden grain through the fructifying touch of the sceptre of Ceres; and Pluto wielded absolute authority over the gloomy regions of Tartarus. But it does not appear from the heathen mythology that they had the faintest conception of the unity and omnipresence of Deity. These attributes make the God of the Bible the object of our profoundest veneration. They impart confidence to the Christian in the hour of trial and in the discharge of duty; whilst they are calculated to deter us from the commission of sin. If God is ever present with us, he will sustain us with needful grace. Let us beware of doing that which his word and the voice of conscience declare to be displeasing in his sight. Portadown, Ireland.
ART. IX.-FREE CHURCHES.
TNIFORMITY of belief and worship being out of the question
in the present state of the Churches of Great Britain, it is proposed by various theorists, of whom Dean Stanley may be taken as the representative, to do the thing that is the next best to it
namely, to include all existing Church societies in a common State Establishment, and, of course, endowment. The civil Government is to establish religious equality, not by disendowing the Church now established, but by establishing all other Churches and creeds by its side—from Romanism to Mormanism, from Dr. Pusey's to Mr. Congreve's. The statesmen of France had recourse to this process of equalizing churches before the law, but the result has not been encouraging. Dean Stanley, however, would stop somewhat short of this. He proposes to retain so much of doctrinal requirement as is to be found in the Apostles' Creed ; thereby excluding many Rationalists, some Unitarians, and all Jews and
Infidels. But herein the theory confesses its empirical character : a principle of equity would demand that none should be excluded. In secular legislation, it is true, the old maxim holds good, de minimis non curat lex; positive laws cannot possibly regard exceptional cases; but a principle of religious equity must do so: matters of religious conscience claim an absolute and upiversal exemption from all legal disabilities. Hence they demand of secular authority, not positive prescription, but only protection in such action as they may think right. The conscience of an Atheist or a Mormon is, before the law, as sacred as that of a Christian; and the legislation is false in principle that puts upon him any disability beyond the social disrepute which of themselves pernicious principles involve. Nor is it any just argument that those excluded are comparatively few. So were the early Christians among the Jews; and, in the second century, among the Pagans of the Roman Empire. So were Nonconformists in the days of Elizabeth. Equity, like truth, does not depend upon majorities. It is at any rate conceivable that the sect which is the smallest now, may, in course of time, become the largest; and there is neither equity nor philosophy in so legislating, as that, in the process they will have to endure a repetition of what Nonconformists have endured. Common disendowment is a principle of absolute religious equality that never can involve injustice, however the proportion of sects may alter. Under no circumstances, therefore, save those of overwhelming practical necessity, should it be departed from. Equitable endowment of all is at any time a practical impossibility; and can be no permanent basis for social order that is ever undergoing flux and change. It is, in fact, a temporary expediency, and not a selfadjusting principle.
Further; any scheme of common establishment and endowment, if equitable, must involve a distribution of ecclesiastical revenues in proportions corresponding with relative magnitudes. Our Episcopalian friends must not imagine that Nonconformists will gladly enter the charmed circle of National Establishment on any terms, only too thankful to be permitted to pick up the crumbs that fall from its sumptuous table; they must not suppose that they would accept a “Regium Donum” while the great bulk of endowments were retained by their present possessors; or that Nonconformists would meekly recognise in Episcopalians any form of the primus inter pares. It is, we believe, altogether impossible that Churches whose history has been one long protest against all forms of establishment, and who on principle voluntarily relinquished their “Regium Donum," should, under any circumstances, consent to either endowment or establishment; but assuredly, if they did, they would insist upon the abolition of every vestige of invidious distinction, upon an equitable distribution of revenues and offices,
and upon a legal equality of function. Whatever expedients for satisfying their just claims may be devised, therefore, they will in no way or degree be diverted from their simple and equitable demand of perfect religious equality.
In seeking the abolition of all establishments, as in their conception the only possible means of realizing this, Free Churchmen are fully conscious of the intricate entanglement of things ecclesiastical and secular; they desire no anarchical rectification ; the tenacity of prerogative, the power of tradition, and the fears of “weak brethren" would prevent it, if they did. But they do demand that this principle of religious equality before the law be conceded; that every possible redress of their disabilities be afforded; and that, step by step, and with as much speed as is compatible with good order, every form and degree of ecclesiastical prerogative be abolished. They demand of statesmen that they put before them as the goal to be strenuously aimed at absolute religious equality among citizens. There is nothing new in this demand. It is the principle for which Nonconformists have always contended; they see in it nothing unreasonable; they claim no ascendency over others, they are not willing for others to have ascendency over them. To this issue the progress of generations has been steadily tending. One by one difficulties have been overcome and prerogatives have been surrendered; and they now are incomparably fewer than they were even half a century ago.
Once more; incongruous as is any scheme of general endowment in the light of equitable principles, its practical difficulties would be found greater still. In the first place; on this theory every pretence to a national conscience or a national religiousness
, must be relinquished. Instead of asserting for itself a corporate religious character, by the recognition and endowment of the true Church, it would explicitly assert that truth was not the condition of endowment. It would act upon the immoral principle of treating truth and error as indifferent; and just in proportion as Churches diverged, the bond that included them would be lax. In this way an approximate civil equity might be secured, but all religiousness would be sacrificed. A national society would be created, but it would cease to be a Church. On the principle of common disendowment, the State may possibly keep a conscience; on the principle of common endowment, it is utterly impossible. Even as the Church now established tries to realize catholicity, it sacrifices conviction; and those who urge it have to base their argument on the unimportance of dogmatic truth; goodness is truth, and truth evaporates into a mere sentiment. This is really the tone of the “Essays on Church Policy.” Almost every writer finds it necessary to denounce or disparage dogma. Just in proportion as the Establishment gathers into its organization, and under its common formularies, men of diverse beliefs, it ceases to be a Church, “the pillar and ground of the truth, and surrenders almost everything committed by Christ to its keeping. And, what is worse, it justifies this by a casuistry the morality of which falls below that of mercantile or social life.
But, it is urged, in the Established Church, as its formularies are now interpreted, there is more freedom than can be realized in any one of the Free Churches, whose formularies are conscientiously maintained. We fully grant it. Nothing is more easy than to confer freedom by evading law and relaxing morals; but the result is hardly conducive to either good order or virtue. There was greater freedom in the mad days of the French Revolution than there is in constitutional England if by freedom the mere absence of restraint is meant. Freedom is only one of the factors of the social or religious equation; right and truth are the other; and the freedom that is obtained at the expense of right and truth is accursed; men call it licentiousness. He, therefore, who puts in a plea for the freedom enjoyed in the Established Church, must first determine the relation of that freedom to rectitude. If honourable respect to Church formularies be disregarded, if fidelity to the truth of Christ be sacrificed, if the conscience be manipulated to a dangerous flexibility, the freedom thus obtained is surely to be neither vaunted nor desired; instead of a. glory, it is simply an immorality. In our simplicity, we have always thought that dogma was as essential to every Church society as religious life; that the very basis of a Church was: agreement in theological dogma and sympathy of religious life. Our forefathers thought so, and became Nonconformists. The fathers of the English Church thought so, and to determine the dogmas of their Church they imposed the creeds and the thirty-nine Articles ; which they very severely enforced : while they had no test at all for mere goodness, or religious life. What, then, are we to think of their modern successors, who propose entirely to reverse these conditions, to annul all requirements of doctrine, and to base the National Church upon mere religious sympathies ? That it is perfectly legitimate for them to seek this reversal of the primary principles of their Church organization we do not dispute ; but they must relinquish all pretence to be in the succession of the Reformers, and to be maintainers of the doctrinal standards of their Church. What real Church society, moreover, can there be when ministers and members of the same community may deny each other's fundamental doctrine, and repudiate each other's worship; assail each other with the gravest imputations, and vituperate each other with the bitterest animosity ? so that the Evangelical excludes from his pulpit the Ritualist, and the Ritualist the Broad Churchman, more rigidly than, perhaps, any
one of the three would exclude the Nonconformist. A Church society, if it mean anything, is an organized fellowship; in which men having affinities of theological thought and of religious feeling associate together; in which spiritual life seeks the communion of kindred lives ; in which men unite in common worship under common forms, and engage in common service. But, so far from realizing this, the Established Church is torn by schisms, and embittered by antagonisms more violent than any that are to be found without its pale. It is at the best held together by a circling hoop of sheer legal force, which coerces, its manifold antipathies.
When Nonconformists differed from the formularies of the State Church, they avowed their difference by open separation; and vindicated their sincerity by great sacrifices. State Churchmen differ even in a greater degree, and they remain within it: need it be debated which is the nobler position? The true conditions of freedom are, not that men who differ should be held together by elastic formulæ, so as deceptively to cover the inner discord by an outward cloak of uniformity, but that all who think and feel alike should have unrestricted liberty to form Church societies for themselves; in which they may openly maintain the doctrines they believe, and heartily unite in the worship they prefer. Freedom of political life does not demand that members of the “Reform Club," and of the “ Carlton," of the.“ Athenæum," and of the “ Army and Navy,” should all be incorporated in one society; nor is it violated because the members of the one are excluded from the other. It is no intolerance if Mr. Disraeli be blackballed at the “Reform," and Mr. Gladstone at the “ Carlton." All conditions of freedom are fulfilled when Liberals and Tories have secured to them liberty to form clubs according to their respective political opinions. Nor is there any reason why men should not differ as widely about ecclesiastical as they do about political matters; or why they should not embody their differences in analogous ways. Of all the shallow sophistries that sensible men adduce for argument, this is surely the most puerile. It can be accounted for only by the glamour which the inexpugnable idea of a national establishment throws upon those who are practically ignorant of what the life of Free Churches really is. The conception of a National Church has taken possession of them, just as the conception of a temporal kingdom took possession of the disciples; and all spiritual representations and urgencies are lost upon them. In all their reasoning, they begin, by postulating an establishment; and very desperately they try to make the untoward facts of our present British religious life conform to it. Whereas, the Free Churches of this kingdom have grown to such a magnitude, diversities of religious belief and worship have become so pro