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nounced, that the very fundamental conditions of an establishment are no longer possible; no conceivable scheme thereof can secure either civil equity or religious fidelity. The only conditions of real and faithful Church life henceforth possible are, that all men be at perfect liberty to form Church societies as their affinities may prompt; that the civil government secure to all equal protection; and that ecclesiastical societies be no longer confounded with the “holy Church of Christ throughout the world.” Making allowance for such exceptions, as in things human there will ever be, this will be the best security, not only for the liberties of all but for the liberty of each ; for public sentiment will sufficiently regulate the conditions of membership in each Church society.
We will conclude this paper with a few words concerning sundry exceptions to Free Church life, upon which great stress is laid by writers who, while they cannot deny its success, are evidently solicitous to find reason why they should resent it; not an unnatural feeling, their circumstances being considered; but, failing to discover practical excellencies in the Established Church, are ingenious in discovering theoretic defects in Free Churches.
That Free Churches have their defects, some of them grave ones, no sensible man would question. In the practical working out of Free Church life there are evils that we freely acknowledge, and that we would fain see removed; evils, too, from which State Churches are exempt. But in the decision of every great question, as Whately taught us when at school, objections have not an absolute but only a relative weight. The real question is not whether one system has evils from which another is exempt, but upon which side, in the sum of the evils of both, the balance inclines. Whether are the greater, the congregation being considered as well as the minister, the evils characteristic of Free Churches, or the evils characteristic of State Churches ?
In the determination of this question, it is essential to bear in mind the proper relationship of the Church and its ministers. For one right principle, clearly recognised, will often go far to determany
doubtful cases. Whether, then, in Churches and in States, do those who are governed exist for the sake of those who govern them, or the reverse? In States, the “ Divine right of kings” has been almost universally abandoned. In the Commonwealth, the sovereign is the creation of the people. He rules by their investiture, and during their good pleasure. And it is found, practically, that the constitutional monarch who frankly recognises this always enjoys more dignity, security, and freedom, than the despotic monarch who stands upon his Divine right. Where one constitutional throne has been overthrown a dozen despotic thrones have fallen. This, then, which is a true principle in the
Commonwealth of the State, can hardly be a false one in the Commonwealth of the Church,—the model and mother of all free government. That which is the security and freedom of those who govern in the one can hardly be their peril and bondage in the other. Beyond all doubt, the ministers of the Church exist for its sake, and derive their authority from it. In the State, as well as in the Church, “ The powers that be are ordained of God.” It is God's ordinance that there should be organised society, government, and rule, both of citizens and of Christian disciples. But it is not God's ordinance that in either men should be appointed to office by his direct and independent designation and investiture. This is to be the constitution of things; but it devolves upon society itself so to constitute it. There is a Divine right of clergy, therefore, only in the sense in which there is a Divine right of kings. Hence, it is no more an argument against popular power in the Church that it may be abused to the hurt of the minister, than it is an argument against popular power in the State, that it may be abused to the hurt of the monarch. Is not the argument equally cogent,—that despotic sovereigns and bishops, and even rectors, have often abused their power to the hurt of the people? In neither case would the true remedy be the reversal of the fundamental principle of rule, but the correction of the party abusing the power. Even on the ground of expediency, it must be deemed a far less evil that a single ruler should be oppressed by a people, than that an entire people should be oppressed by a ruler. If the abuse of power is certain, it is the minimum of the evil that it should be on the side of the people.
If, then, it be the true relation of minister and people that ministers are “ servants of the Church for Jesus' sake," and not 6 lords over God's heritage,” for their own; it can be no reason for the reversal of the relationship that sometimes they are treated even as slaves. The true remedy is a higher moral education, a purer spiritual feeling, a greater degree of self-control in the Church; and meek patience in the clergy as a chief means of it. It is inevitable, that in the process of their moral education both the State and the Church will be guilty of many shortcomings and wrongs. Men are educated largely through their failures ;
but there is a vast difference between the evils of human nature, which fails in the realization of a right system; and evils inherent in a system itself: the cure of the one is advanced by every degree of spiritual enlightenment and growth ; for the other there is no cure at all. As a matter of simple fact, however, let us assure our friends, that while the existence of such evils in Free Churches is neither to be denied nor thought lightly of, they are ludicrously exaggerated by the theoretic logic of those who twit us with them. Nothing
ean be more fallacious than to judge the practical workings of any system on à priori principles. We all know how, continually, in political life, ratiocinations of this kind are discredited ; and that extensions of the suffrage, free trade enactments, &c., do not produce the evils predicted of them. A thousand subtle and uncalculated influences modify their action, and secure a beneficial result. Ministers of Free Churches, strange to say, do, on the whole, rejoice in their position ; they are proud of their independence, and are confident of the esteem and affection of their flocks; and they are simply amused when their protected brethren insist upon it, that they must be grudgingly supported and grossly tyrannized over. By every law of reason and of logic they ought to be “destitute, afflicted, tormented,” above all men upon the earth. Each Church, we are told, must be democratical, if not anarchical, in an insufferable degree; and as a consequence, unreasonably capricious and cruelly tyrannous over its minister. No doubt such things are to be found in Free Churches—this is the characteristic possibility of popular power ; but, we are bold to say, it is a practical evil in a degree so unappreciable that if condolences on this ground were proffered to any assembly of the Congregational or Baptist Unions, of the Presbyterian Synod, or of the Wesleyan Conference, they would be received with shouts of laughter. Although in America, England, and the Colonies, Free Church life is to be found to a large extent, and in various forms, it is from none of these that the protestation comes: the moans of the actual sufferers are not heard amid the cries of their sympathizers; nor has any instance yet been known of an ecclesiastical body once emancipated from State control desiring to return to the house of their bondage. On the contrary, the longer freedom is enjoyed, the more enamoured of it all Churches become. It may be, indeed, that we are so subdued to our condition of serfdom as to be unconscious of it—the last wrong that slavery can inflict; but then in other things we are generally reputed to be sensitive, almost to morbidness, in resenting any infringement of our liberties; and it is scarcely likely that in ecclesiastical matters we should meekly bow our necks to a yoke of bondage, which the proud spirit of a protected State-Churchman could not brook. One thing we must tell our friends, that, if the very least of our Churches, or the most tyrannical of our deacons, were to attempt to impose upon a minister such subjection as scores of curates endure from their rectors or squires, it would speedily find itself without a minister at all. Mr. Ll. Davis denounces the power of the voluntary principle as “the power of a close corporation to exercise inexpressible control, by the vote of the greater number, in matters relating to their own faith and worship .... against this power individuals have no appeal.” “Essays on Church Policy,” p. 62. Does he think the power of
control of an individual bishop or rector more rightful or salutary; or that individuals in his own church have more power of appeal? Why, neither minority nor majority has any vestige of power at all.
In their high appreciation of the sacredness of freedom, and in their broad manly love for it, ministers of Free Churches are so unwise in their generation as to maintain that the people have rights and liberties as well as the clergy; and even against the presumed instincts of their order they contend that it is an invasion of the most sacred of all rights for ministers to be imposed upon those who are to be dependent upon them for the nurture of their religious life, regardless either of the fitness of the minister or the consent of the people; and that it is unreasonable and scandalous that forms of worship and extravagancies of ritual should be enforced upon a congregation of worshippers at the caprice of a clergyman, despite even its protest. Surely this, the most sacred and most momentous of all relationships, is not to be the only exception in social life to the requirement of mutual consent. Mr. Ll. Davies has an insuperable objection to the choice of a pastor by the congregation, which he deems humiliating, and incompatible with independence. Does he deem it more dignified, or more conducive to the interests of either pastor or people, that he shall be appointed by a Lord Chancellor, or a private patron, or at an auction mart? We venture to think that if at any time Free Church ministers have been scourged by their people with whips, Episcopalian congregations have been scourged by their rulers with scorpions ; and that the evils of the one tyranny are not to be compared with the evils of the other. Nay, further, we think that it is not possible to inflict upon a congregation a greater social and religious wrong than to impose upon it a minister who is either intellectually or spiritually incompetent to teach it. It is the very glory of Free Churches that they insist upon their ministers being qualified to do their work; that he whose office it is to teach them and lead them in the way to Heaven shall be competent and worthy. As a rule they are marvellously patient; but there are limits beyond which incompetence will not be endured, nor should it. We can wish the Established Church no greater blessing than a degree of dependence upon its congregations which would rid it of some hundreds of utterly incompetent ministers.
Let our friends give us credence when we say that in Free Churches, even in the least, there are so many subtle counteractions and checks upon tyranny, so free a play of diversified opinion, and so wholesome a jealousy of illicit or inordinate power, that the cases are very few indeed where the proper consti
tutional freedom of the minister is not secured to him. Rarely, save as a troublesome churchwarden or squire might annoy a vicar; never, as an overbearing rector might tyrannize over a curate, is the Free Church minister troubled, even by the rich and domineering deacon, who, in Episcopal essays and fictions, is the bête noire of vulgar ignorance and insolence.
Mr. Byrne puts the objection in another form. He thinks that the ruling power in Voluntary Churches is not exactly the rich, for in some cases they are not the most ready to contribute;" but, he will not admit that it may be the pious, the self-sacrificing sentiment of the community. With an instinct that must surely be generated by the admixture of temporal “ livings” and spiritual interests in Established Churches, for it is almost uniform among his brethren, he can conceive of nothing higher or other than a sinister and unworthy influence. “The money power of sectarian zeal,” he calls it. "The tendency of the Voluntary system is, by making its clergy dependent on the money power of sectarian zeal, to exaggerate in theirs whatever is most characteristic of the religious body in those members of it who are its most efficient supporters," “ to stereotype the narrowness of sects, and to maintain their differences.” (Essays on the Irish Church, p. 31.)
Our only reply to this subtle and far-fetched a priori reasoning must, we fear, be a very unphilosophical appeal to vulgar facts, and, we regret to say, in the proverbially odious way of comparison. But our censors lay the necessity upon us.
At the present moment, among the multiplied diversities of the Free Churches of Great Britain, there is not, so far as we are aware, a single controversy waging; and such throughout their history have been very exceptional, for this simple reason, they recognise in others the rights which they themselves claim; their
. differences, therefore, are preferences, not animosities. Their ministers freely and courteously exchange pulpits, and meet together on terms of perfect brotherhood ; their intercommunion being so much a matter of course that it is neither talked about nor thought about. Baptists, Presbyterians, Wesleyans, and Episcopalians are not only found in the membership of Congregational Churches, but, especially the two former, frequently hold office therein as deacons; no one ever thinking of their ecclesiastical peculiarities. When the disruption of the Church of Scotland took place, most of the Free Churches of England made collections for the necessities of their seceding Presbyterian brethren. Where is the evidence of the sectarian spirit ?
What, on the other hand, must be said about the sectarian spirit of the Established Church ? Is it not, with the solitary exception of the Church of Rome, the narrowest and most exclusive in Christendom? Are not its pulpits closed against the ministers of