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T is hard to conceive what general truths they, who would enact special exemptions in favour of 'Dissenters,' can ask us to recognise; or what principle it is which they seek to defend. At first sight there appears to be no method pursued by those who so persistently agitate against the National Establishment of religion. Mere resistance is not a method. The abolition of a State religion cannot be called a principle. Or if it be dignified by that name, let us at least carefully balance it with the ancient and fundamental principle which we desire to maintain. For them to say: 'Our form of worship shall be made the State religion,' would be carrying out a principlethe very principle in which we concur. They could then contest merely the application of that principle; they could dispute only as to the accidents with which that principle is to be surrounded, but would not differ from us concerning the substance to be upheld. They do not, however, act thus. They insist that there shall be no State religion: that there shall be no National Church at all. They deny entirely the principle which we affirm.
This, therefore, is the issue before us; this is the ground on which they attack Church-rates, and endowments, and clerical subscription, and the Irish Church, and even meditate an assault upon tithes. They would have us surrender our principles, and abolish the National Church.
High Churchmen, however, concur with the Dissenters in pleading that all sects should be left to do for themselves. Has, then, such an experiment already been tried? and has it been satisfactory? If so, then why, instead of giving us abstract arguments, do they not point to the tangible results of that experiment? But, on the other hand, if this is some new experiment which they ask the Legislature to inaugurate, then let them rather try it first in corpore vili,
and not where failure would be fatal.
But what if we proceed to show that the experiment has been tried already in the case of schools; that it has proved a lamentable failure; and that it has aroused the indignation of a whole continent? What if we point further to the woful, nay, most damnable results of a similar experiment with the Church? What if we show that two centuries of endeavours could not secure a favourable issue for the experiment, although the priests of Baal have leaped upon their altars, and, amidst self-inflicted wounds, cried aloud upon their gods for success?
At any rate the National Church exists. Therefore the onus probandi should lie on those who deny the benefit of it to the nation. The presumption is all in favour of our assertion that the abolition of
that Church would be a gross injustice, and cause the greatest injury. It will not be sufficient for them to prove that the Establishment has defects as well as advantages; and that some other system has advantages (as well as defects of course); for this is true of every human institution. Our opponents have three points to demonstrate: (1) The absolute necessity for a change. (2) That a National Church is necessarily or substantially injurious; and (3), That the system which they advocate is essentially good, and must therefore be entirely beneficial. Until these feats of argument have been achieved, we might rest upon our existing rights.
But yet I hope to bring forward arguments ex abundanti to prove (1) on the grounds of reason, and (2) from experience, that a National Church is in every way superior to any other system which can be invented. Nay more, I will show that the proposal of our opponents has been often tried, and found to be the very worst scheme which has ever been imagined.
Let us, however, distinctly remember the point which has to be proved: let there be no confusion as to the real question at issue between us. It is not whether Episcopacy shall be the National Church; but whether there shall be any National Church at all. The former is a theme for theologians; the latter is a question for statesmen.
This same controversy involves the fate of Scotland also; for it is not in dispute whether the Presbyterian Church shall be the National Church of
Scotland; but whether there shall be any National Church at all. The Scotch have, therefore, exactly the same interest in the issue as the English and Irish.
The ultimate question for solution is merely whether there shall be a National Church. We shall not, therefore, discuss the theological topic of the model of Church Establishment-i. e. whether it should be Episcopalian, Presbyterian, or Independent. Because, that which has first to be determined is, whether there shall be any Establishment at all. It is true that our National Church happens now to be Episcopalian; just as at one time it was Presbyterian, and at another Independent; although, indeed, that last was so divided against itself, that it could not stand for a single decennium.
Seeing then that a National Church is not necessarily and essentially Episcopalian, the arguments against Episcopacy (if there be any of cogency and weight) do not touch our position at all. The question of the rights and powers of Episcopacy is not on political ground.
Similarly all the arguments intended to prove the Church of England to be unsound in doctrine (if there be any such of cogency and weight) have nothing to say to our enquiry. And all the arguments invented to show that the Church of England has improper rites, or useless ceremonies, do not at all come within the scope of our investigation. For none of these are political matters. In short, it is not our province to consider forms of religion, but
I shall not,
only the forms of a political entity. therefore, attack the prejudices of those who differ from us in doctrine; nor argue with those who dislike the ceremonies we practise. I address those who dispute the first ground; I seek to refute those who oppose the very principle of a National Church, as an engine of the State for the benefit of the nation.
But, as Bacon says: Our Church is not now to place; it is settled and established. It may be in Civil States a republic is better than a kingdom; yet God forbid that lawful kingdoms should be tied to innovate and make alterations: Qui mala introducit, voluntatem Dei oppugnat revelatam in verbo; qui nova introducit, voluntatem Dei oppugnat revelatam in rebus.' †
Yet, although the National Church is a fact, and the onus probandi lies entirely on those who oppose it-although it is for them to show that a National
Thus Coleridge says: 'But I affirm that (in the spiritual purpose of the word [sc. religion], and as understood in reference to a future state, and to the abiding essential interest of the individual as a person, and not as the citizen, neighbour, or subject), religion may be an indispensable ally, but is not the essential, constitutive end, of that national institute which is unfortunately, at least improperly, styled The Church. . . . Theologians formed only a portion of the clerks of the National Church.' The notion which gave them precedence, as being exclusively sacerdotal, was a misgrowth of ignorance and oppression. . . . No, the theologians took the lead because the science of theology was the root and the trunk of the knowledge of civilised man. . . . It had the precedency because under the name theology were comprised all the main aids, instruments, and materials of national education, the nisus formativus of the body politic, the shaping and informing spirit, which, educing or eliciting the latent man in all the natives of the soil, trains them up to be citizens of the country, free subjects of the realm.'--Church and State, p. 51. + Bacon, Wise and Moderate Discourse, &c.