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speak slightingly of the former, do thereby prove themselves the best friends of the latter.
But, perhaps, I have not yet seized hold of that meaning of historical Christianity, which is most commonly intended by those who disparage it. By the disparagement of historical Christianity may be generally intended the disparagement of all that Christianity which depends on history and testimony, or is expressed in any particular book or books, or has to do with any particular individual or individuals, or acknowledges any one person as its author and finisher ;
that is to say, all that Christianity, which, being derived from Jesus the Christ, is properly and distinctively Christianity. If this be the meaning, it is sufficiently plain, and more than sufficiently unpleasant. I will not enter into an argument with a theory which would separate Christianity from Christ, or divorce religion from the Bible. With a reverence as great as can be entertained by any one for the voice of God in nature, and the revelations and promises of God to the human breast, and the image of God in the human soul, my strongest, dearest, and liveliest faith is in the revelation of God by his Son Jesus; my chief hope is in the mercy of God through Christ; and God forbid that I should glory save in his cross. Therefore I must repudiate all those views, be they new or old, original or borrowed, which make Christianity, proper Christianity, as old as the Creation; which bow not the knee at the name of Jesus; and which send men to their own impulses, fancies, and unassisted reason for their religion, their faith and their duty. My belief is in the name of Jesus the Christ, which, with all the love, devotion, sacrifice, suffering, and glory surrounding it, is “ written” on the pages of the Gospels. That holy name I cannot join, on terms of familiar equality, with any earthly name; and I am only grieved when I see or hear it lightly placed, and with no qualifying distinction, in union with the names of bards and philosophers, who, were they living, would themselves be the first humbly to disclaim their strange honors, and perhaps indignantly to rebuke those who offered them. With all my admiration for the wisest and purest sages of antiquity, who taught according to their light, my constant reflection while reading them is, how imperfect are their pages, wanting the name of Christ. With gratitude I feel and acknowledge within myself a divinely given power receptive of Christian wisdom, but no power of producing it, independently of the Great
Teacher. The Christianity which enlightens, directs, and comforts me, is that same historical Christianity, preserved to me in its own undying records, which is treated by some as a common story ; that Christianity, built upon the foundation of Christ, which a self-relying pride presumes to set at naught. I enter into no argument at present, neither do I entertain any fear of results. It is enough, that, speaking to those who cherish the same faith and hope, I have explained what is commonly meant by historical Christianity ; so that they may not be led to regard it with any the less respect, by hearing it, as may happen to them, mentioned disrespectfully. Historical Christianity, in its pure and proper sense, is the Christianity of those whose faith and hope is in Christ, and who receive him from God as the only Saviour. We hold the Bible as our richest inheritance. We have found in it our highest philosophy, and our heavenly wisdom. We will not let it drop from our hands through negligence. We will not let it be wrested from our hands by ridicule, or sophistry, or mysticism, or vain pretences.
F. W. P. G.
ART. IV.- National Establishments of Religion, considered
in connexion with Justice, Christianity, and Human Nature. By John TAYLOR. London : Smallfield & Son, 69 Newgate Street. 1839. 8vo. pp. 240.
In the spring of 1838, Dr. Chalmers, the main artery of life to the Scotch Establishment, was called to London to uphold by his eloquence the expediency and the legality of state patronage in favor of sectarian Christianity. So far he made common cause with the legal faith south of the Tweed. The probable result of his Lectures was that his hearers and his readers were confirmed in their former opinions, whatever they were, for in our best judgment of the man and his wonderful gifts, we should pronounce him more successful in strengthening the adherence of his disciples, than in adding to their number. However, lest some of his arguments dropped here and there might have altered in his favor the former proportion of the friends and enemies of Church Establishments, in the spring of 1839, Dr. Wardlaw, of Glasgow, the head of the Scotch Secession Church, was called to London to undo as far as possible the work of Dr. Chalmers. The English Dissenters justly thought that they ought neither to remain indifferent to a question, in which their own interests were so largely involved, nor to leave it to be debated entirely by the champions of the North. The committee of the Protestant Society for the Protection of Religious Liberty offered two prizes for the two best Essays on National Religious Establishments, in answer to the Lectures of Dr. Chalmers. By the adjudication of Rev. Dr. T. Raffles, Rev. Dr. J. P. Smith, and William Tooke, Esq., F. R. S., the work now before us received the second prize. Mr. Taylor's Essay is brief, but comprehensive and conclusive. As associated with the present position of that tyrannical and irreligious oppression of conscience, which is the principle and the result of a religious establishment, it may be interesting to some of our readers to have a sketch of the argument of this able Essay.
Chapter I. discusses the question, Whether the Idea of Civil Government involves a Right to Legislate upon matters of Religion. The object of civil government is to secure to men their rights and their means of happiness, their property, their liberty of mind and body ; and do for them what they cannot do for themselves, namely, to protect them against the aggressions of others. Government may, to a certain extent, interfere in support of education in common_temporal affairs, for thus men are prepared for civil duties. The advocates of Church Establishments attempt, from this last concession, to argue by analogy the right of the civil government to interpose in favor of religion. But conscience and the mind, the science of common life and spiritual duties, are distinct; government cannot compel belief, nor enforce worship. If we say that government has a right to support any one doctrine or opinion, we must carry out the principle thoroughly and consistently ; then an Inquisition would be reasonable, for the evils of persecution in this life are but trifles compared with the miseries of a false creed in the next. Warburton and Paley maintain that a religious establishment is justifiable on the ground of civil utility; Dr. Chalmers adds likewise spiritual utility. The consequences of both arguments are the same, injustice and oppression. Then it is said that the magistrate has the saine right over citizens, that the father of a family has over his children. The answer to this argument is, that a magistrate has not the natural affection and interests of a parent, and that even a parent has no authority over conscience. The argument, indeed, may be turned back upon its proposers; for a good father leaves his child at maturity to his own independent convictions. The foundation of all the above arguments is, that civil authority extends to whatever promotes the happiness and welfare of society. But this is a false foundation ; for civil authority does not extend to many social interests, such as habits of expense, extravagance, &c.
Chapter II. disposes in a summary manner of the question, whether civil interference with Religion is sanctioned or permitted by Christianity ; by the following heads of argument. There is no direct precept in the New Testament, authorizing the interference of the civil magistrate in matters of religion. If there had been such a precept, Christianity never would have obtained a footing in the world. Jesus Christ did not acknowledge the authority of the state in religious matters. He gave no authority to Christian over Christian. The establishment of one sect violates in various ways the Christian precept of doing to others as we would have them do to us.
Chapter III. developes “the idea of an Established Church." There being no just principles upon which the civil establishment of religion can be based, the idea of it being wholly beyond vindication, no modification of it, such as a tolerating of dissent, a respect for differing consciences, or the exercise of a liberal spirit, can make it right. It is essential to the idea of a religious establishment, that one particular sect be favored, and thus religion is wrongfully allowed to create civil distinctions. Again; the choice by a government of one sect for its exclusive patronage, obliges it to assume a theological character, which is not one of its functions. Dr. Chalmers, in his late Lectures, expressly hinges the question of a religious establishment upon the one or the other of these two principles; the competency of an assemblage of legislators to decide upon the theological truth of any system; or, the fitness of any system, by the influence and the lessons of its discipleship, to elevate and improve a people. The former principle involves the assumption of infallibility, which Protestantism and reason disclaim. The latter principle involves injustice to other sects than the favored one, for there is nothing in their tenets to affect their civil duties, or their ordinary morality. Again; the
compulsory support of some one system of doctrines, which is essential to a religious establishment, is unjust and oppressive, as it extorts pecuniary aid from other sects to uphold peculiar doctrines not their own. If the legal provision for the support of religious teachers and ministrations is voluntarily contributed or freely provided by citizens from their own private property, then the church cannot be called a national church, unless the civil power exalt the spiritual claims of a denomination thus constituted and favored. But whenever a religious bequest has, for reasons of state, been diverted, by an act of the nation, from its own sect, to the support of a different sect; or when such property is great, and includes a large part of the land of a nation, and was originally bestowed for purposes which do not appear productive of the national welfare ; or when the state forbids the devise of landed property in perpetuity; — in these cases, bequeathed property is national property, and the sect, which exclusively enjoys it, is an established and a nationally endowed sect.
The friends of the religious establishments in Great Britain have endeavored to prove that the funds used in their support originated in private charities, enlarged and converted by a majority of the people to national interests. But the establishments of England, Scotland, and Ireland are not supported from sources virtually private. Tithes were originally, and are still, not private charities, but national grants for religious purposes. They originated under Ethelwolph, the son and successor of Egbert, who united the kingdoms of the heptarchy under his authority. Even the ancient private charities now held by the English establishment, are not held by virtue of the original gift, but have been transferred by Parliamentary enactments to an opposite purpose. If the state, then, has a right to interfere with private bequests, it has a right to distribute them among all sects. But reverence for conscience, and the nature of religion, and the office of the civil magistrate, require that no sect share this patronage, because the purity and the moral power of religion are better preserved without aid from the state. It is often asserted that the Legislature cannot alienate church property, because it is still private property. This is absurd, for it would give to one generation the power of irrevocably fixing the intellectual and moral state of all after ages. The enormous wealth of the English Church ought then to be restored to the Roman Church. It is idle to make the earth a