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clude half the population of the country-those of the Sectaries or of the Establishment? Who raise the character of the poor by discourses which they can understand and feel? What sort of instructors will they generally be, who owe their office, not to the people, but to patronage? What is the fact? Where dissent is tolerated, is not more knowledge diffused by voluntary exertion than by established institutions? We may read, in broad characters, the importance of liberty to religious light, in those countries where the genuine spirit and tendency of slavery is unmitigated by the corrective of even tolerated dissent. How deplorable is their condition! There the populace are uniformly sunk in the most abject ignorance and superstition. There priests and people, blind leaders of the blind, sink together into the very barbarism of ignorance. There is the grave of intellect and of knowledge, of morals and of freedom.
And what need be feared from perfect religious liberty as to the peace of society? Political interference gives bitterness and fury to the controversies of sects, by holding out emoluments and power as the prize of contention ;-without this, theological warfare is harmless : it neither robs nor murders. Placed thus on equal terms, the passions hushed, truth would be pursued more disinterestedly; charity would prevail ; Christianity would reassume her primeval simplicity and purity; and, cleansed from internal corruptions
her professors, by mutual knowledge and examination, united in mind and heart, the path would be again open for conversion, and the gospel would go forth “ conquering and to conquer.”
Paley's defence of Establishments is comprised in the following propositions : “ The knowledge and profession of Christianity cannot be upholden without a clergy: a clergy cannot be supported without a legal provision; a legal provision for the clergy cannot be constituted without the preference of one sect of Christians to the rest.” (Moral Philosophy, Book vi. Ch. ix.) · This argument is as applicable to Astronomy, or any other science, as to Christianity; and is as fallacious and inconsistent with experience in the one case, as in the other. Not one of these three propositions is true; and the argument requires the truth of all. The first and second are disproved by the history of the early Christians, of the Quakers, and of other Dissenters; and the third, by the examples, just now alluded to, of Holland, Canada, and the United States. Even if true, the conclusion might, and if what has been already urged be admitted, would be destroyed by the unavoidable evils attending establishments. The first allegation is very unfortunate; as it cannot be denied that the best defences of Christianity, which have appeared in our language, have been the work of Dissenters. Paley himself did little more than abridge, and select from, the writings of Lardner. Indeed, the Episcopalian Clergy are most undesirable defenders of Christianity, because many of the objections of unbelievers are true of their system, though not of the gospel. They have felt this incumbrance, and accordingly have succeeded best when they have kept that system out of sight, and written as much like Dissenters as possible. They are like David in the armour of Saul, oppressed by its weight, and shackled by its trappings; while the peasant boy, in the freedom of honest zeal and truth, easily brings down the giant of infidelity.
6 Were the book of Scripture,” says Robinson, “ like that of Nature, laid open to universal inspection; were all ideas of temporal rewards and punishments removed from the study of it; that would come to pass in the moral world, which has actually happened in the world of human science; each capacity would find its own object, and take its own quantum. Newtons will find stars without penalties, Miltons will be poets, and Lardners Christians without rewards. Calvins will contemplate the decrees of God, and Baxters will try to assort them with the spontaneous volitions of men : all, like the celestial bodies, will roll on in the quiet majesty of simple proportion, each in his proper sphere shining to the glory of God the Creator. But alas, we have not so learned Christ !”
Both Protestants and Nonconformists are in
consistent, when they abandon the broad principle of religious liberty. What justifies separation from the Church of Rome, but the truth that the Bible alone is the religion of Christians ; the Bible to be interpreted by every man for himself ? When once the Reformers saddled it with their own interpretations, they abandoned the great cause for which they had struggled, and the only ground on which they could safely and honourably stand. If an authoritative interpretation must be coupled with it, who would not prefer that of Rome to that of England or Geneva, antiquity to novelty, splendour to poverty, and the fellowship of nations to that of provinces? In like manner, when Dissenters make and impose creeds, we may ask, Why seek ye“ to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?" You claim the right of private judgment; allow it then, there, where only you can allow, or prohibit, within your churches. Be not more strenuous for opinions, than for charity and liberty. If their sacrifice be demanded, it is more likely to be on the altar of error than on that of truth. Ye are brethren; “ see that ye fall not out by the way;" prefer the uniformity of love to that of faith, and the diversity of opinions to that of feelings and hearts. It is only thus that a fair reply can be given to the taunts of the enemies of religious liberty. The Catholics have always said to the Protes
tants, “ You deny the authority of our Church, and yet you are dictated to by magistrates and synods." The Establishment has always reproached sects, “ You demur to our creeds and articles, yet you have creeds and articles to which you subscribe and submit.” And these again say to the congregations, “ You will not own the power of associated representatives of churches, and yet each church requires of individuals that they should hold certain doctrines, on peril of expulsion.” Where, then, is the difference? This can never be repelled but by all churches having no creed but the Bible, and recognizing the right of all to its interpretation,
« Charity,” and not faith, " is the bond of perfectness" in Christian Churches. It is melancholy to recollect what excellent men, “ of whom the world was not worthy,” have been kept out, or turned out, of the communion, not only of the Established, but of Dissenting Churches, by the use of creeds, to the destruction of liberty. How many of them would never have admitted, or would promptly have expelled, such men as Watts or Doddridge, Lardner, Lindsey, Baxter or Robinson! Our great and good and glorious Milton, the man of whom England has most reason to be proud, was thrust back from that station in her Church which he wished to occupy, and would have adorned so splendidly. In his “ Reason of Church Government urged against Prelaty," he