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gion. Why such men have been humble nonconformist pastors, instead of being clergymen, dignitaries, or prelates, admits of but one answer. Religion with them was a reality, and a reality in relation to which they were bound to form their own conscientious judgment, and to act according to that judgment. It is scarcely necessary to add, that the feeling which originated the old nonconformists, is the same that has since originated Methodism.
The efforts of these different bodies of Christians to augment the religious knowledge and feeling of their country, have been such as might have been expected from their character. They have taken the lead in every good work. In popular education, both in Day schools and Sunday schools; in district visiting; in home and foreign missions ; in more frequent and earnest ministrations from the pulpit,-in all these things, and more, they have set an example which many of the clergy and laity of the Established Church have been forward for a while to condemn, and have been afterwards constrained to imitate. With these people the truths of religion are indeed verities. The soul is immortal. Heaven and hell are not fictions. The stupendous mysteries of the Christian redemption are facts. They believe these things, and therefore do they speak of them.
When we thus speak, we would be understood as speaking generally. We admit exceptions. In this connexion, as in others, many nonconformists appear to fall into the snare incident to the particular form of their religious profession. Men may adhere to a primitive worship, and presume upon this fact that they possess the primitive spirit. Associated with a spiritual and earnest community, they may too readily assume that they are themselves spiritual and earnest. In this manner, what is outwardly good, may conduce to what is inwardly delusive. The
form' of godliness, in place of leading to the power' of it, may only the more effectually preclude it.
We may add, that it is characteristic of English nonconformity, that the larger portion of the good attributable to it, should be good resulting from it, not directly, but Indirectly.
If social experience has taught men anything, it has assuredly made thus much indisputable, viz. :--that it belongs to every state-sustained and opulent church, to sink into lethargy and corruptness, if that tendency be not counteracted by agencies from without. Of this we have abundant proof in the history of the Roman-catholic church. Thus the inonks came, one order after another, each with their greater and still greater pretensions to spirituality and devotion, and each acting as regenerators of the ecclesiastical system, and as regenerators especially of the
secular' clergy-as they were only too aptly called—who were at its head. But monks in their turn became worldly. Men less liable to be corrupted by wealth than even the brotherhood of a convent, and more disposed to activity and the work of instruction, were demanded, and in due time the demand called forth the supply. The four orders of friars proclaimed themselves as the enemies of the endowment of the Christian priesthood, and professed to cast themselves, as no other religious order had done, on the voluntary offerings of the people; while, to denote their special mission, and to rebuke the tithe-endowed clergy more effectually, they were designated preaching friars.' When the protestant reformation came, the clergy of the state churches of Christendom were again found unequal to the service demanded from them; and the jesuits became, what friars and monks had been in former ages--a new spiritual militia, summoned to do the work which a clergy living a life of indulgence in their worldly endowments were found incompetent to perform. Truly we wonder not that the heroic Wycliffe should have pointed to nearly all the miseries of the church in his time as flowing from the foul endowing' of her ministers in the days of Constantine and Pope Sylvester, declaring that Heaven foresaw the coming evils in that hour and bewailed them! For we see that throughout ecclesiastical history, the unendowed have been ever called in as the regenerators of the endowed. These have been to decayed churches what new infusions from less effeminate and debased communities have been to corrupt nations. They have brought about reform ; and in so doing have staved off the ruin that would otherwise have been inevitable. Many a time the compulsory priesthood would have sunk hopelessly, and their system along with them, if a voluntary priesthood had not made timely appearance for the rescue of both. Whatever may be said against the particular character of these monastic, mendicant, or jesuit voluntaries, cannot at all affect the principle involved in their history. Indeed, if the men were so bad, or, at least, in process of time became such, and the principle even in their hands was nevertheless so powerful, what might we not expect from it as worked by men of more steady worth, and of a purpose still more resolute? If we descend from the time when these light and somewhat irregular troops of the papacy did their service in its cause, the state of things will not appear to be materially changed. Since those ages, state-churches have shown small signs of vitality, except as self-sustained churches have been allowed free action beside them, and have thus stimulated them to wakefulness and effort. The little we have said in a preced
ing section will suffice to indicate the manner in which the non-established churches in this country have acted upon the established church. It is true, the church awakened inay react upon her awakener; but it is no less true, that if the latter had slumbered, the slumber of the former might never have been broken.
On the whole, it is thus manifest, that the good which voluntary churches have done, is little compared with the good which they have provoked their wealthy and powerful rivals to do. It is one of their characteristics that the good attributable to them should be thus twofold. But it does not say much for the excellence of a principle, that it should rarely be found to work well. except as necessity shall be in this manner laid upon it. Such, however, is clearly the case with the church-establishment principle. Nor can we think it a desirable thing that the one-half of a Christian people should be so often put to this sort of inconvenience, merely to prevent the other half from going to sleep. It would surely be far better that they should be alike wakeful : ---and what is needed to that end? Simply that they should be placed in a like condition-be alike self-sustained.
We do not think so meanly of the church of England system, whatever may be the forebodings of some of its adherents, as to suppose that our episcopal church would become extinct, or, in fact, would suffer the loss of any real power, were her last glebe swept away from her to-morrow, and the last thread connecting her with the state snapped asunder. On the contrary, we can conceive that such a change would be to her as life from the dead. She would still be rich in all her historical associations, in all her ancient forms, and in all her adaptations to the hereditary tastes and habits of our people ; and if it should only be given her to use her new freedom wisely, so as to reform some of the more obsolete matters in her ritual, and to put away the earthly-minded and impure from her priesthood, her loss of state connexion and emolument would be abundantly compensated by her augmented strength—a strength that would be more than ever formidable to other religious bodies, and would become the especial antagonist of that Erastian spirit which at this moment has such fearful hold upon our statesmen. But, for the present, we fear much lower views—views relating to mere pelf—will suffice to preclude those loftier thoughts concerning church power, and concerning what is greatly more important-church utility.
The most conspicuous fault among dissenters, and one, we are sorry to say, which appears to have been growing upon them of
, late, is of the sort to which all popular bodies are incident; a fault which, in our time, is nowhere seen in so strong a form as
among our kinsmen on the other side the Atlantic, where broadcloth mobs sometimes take upon them the several offices of judge, jury, and executioner, in their own cause. What the Ostracisın of the Athenians was to Attica, Lynch-law has since become to America. It is one of the modes in which popular liberty, is liable to degenerate into popular tyranny. It is the sovereign power becoming arbitrary, lawless, oppressive; and we must be allowed to profess ourselves stern haters of such power when so wielded, whether it may chance to be in the hands of monarchs or of multitudes. At present, we have not proceeded to the length of the Athenian Ostracism, nor of the American Lynchlaw :-but this one-sided passionateness in dealing with public questions; this disposition, in seasons of excitement, to stifle free and fair discussion by mere clamour; this practice of giving all sorts of bad names to the men who differ from us in judgment, and of subjecting them to all sorts of suspicions; this resolve to proscribe everything, almost without a hearing, as absurdity or treachery which does not square itself to the full with our own notions—this tone of things, which has been increasingly observable of late, has a great deal too much of the Lynch and Ostracism spirit in it for our taste. For ourselves, it will be no part of our vocation to play the sycophant either to courts or crowds. We sympathize with the popular power too fervently, not to be deeply grieved when we see it surrendering itself into the hands of the enemy by its excesses.
It is not a wholesome state of things, when the one-half of a community are silent, because they see that to speak would be to commit themselves to a conflict with the other half which could bring nothing but disaster on both. That this virtual tyranny is at present largely visible within the pale of Evangelical Dissent, is unquestionable; that it must ere long come to an end, is as little doubtful. Our own earnest wish would be realized if we could see it end, not in a wide-spread division, but in that soundhearted unity which can only result from a more manly tolerance of difference in opinion.
But we shall not pursue this subject further. We think we have now given proof, as stated in the commencement of this paper, that our aim has not been to vindicate Dissent, so much as to give a fair light and shadow account of what it really is. If we have at all failed in charity towards any man, we have failed unconsciously.
ART. V. Friends in Council : A Series of Headings and Discourses
thereon. Book I. Pickering. 1847. We have a peculiar regard for the Essayists; and now that they seem dying out of fashion, we become more sensible of their importance. The author of Friends in Council' is, if we mistake not, the only essayist of note now living; yet the solid reputation and steadily increasing admirers, won by his · Essays during intervals of Business, and his Claims of Labour,' which, in the shape of review, and then of translation, have become known even in France, show plainly enough that there is still a public for such works. Perhaps the increased channels of communication between the authors and the public, has contributed to reduce the essay to this much less conspicuous position. Now a writer moralizes in a novel, or in a review. Instead of set essays, we have incidental remarks. All this may be for the better; we will spend no sarcasm on the present state of things, because it happens to cripple one favourite of ours; but with a sigh for the departing race, let us all the more warmly cherish this last of the essayists.
The author of Friends in Council' has many qualifications for an essayist. A musing, thoughtful, subtle mind, of a mixed boldness and timidity in speculation, which, while swerving from the beaten path, is yet careful not to offend, thus securing independence of thought, without alarming the general reader; a style at once grave yet animated, polished, yet easy, somewhat too latinized in its construction, yet redeemed from pedantry or strangeness by the colloquial familiarity of many of its turns and phrases—a style deficient in colour, in vigour, and in warmth, yet one which, in its calm strength and luminous repose, is peculiarly adapted to the subjects of which it treats. These qualities mark him out for an essayist, but an essayist of a kind apart. He has not the deep bold thinking, the pell-mell learning, and attractive egotism of Montaigne ; he has not the impetuosity and force of the wilful, subtle, paradoxical Hazlitt; he has not the delicate humour of Elia, nor the poetical grace so happily garlanding the wit and humour of Leigh Hunt; nor has he the sustained power of Foster. The stamp of an individual mind so visible in the slightest essays of these writers, and which constitutes a special charm the more, is not so visible in his pages. There is a reticence and misgiving which shroud the man behind the writer. In so far, there is a great loss of power. On the other hand, there is an absence of that cause of objection which is inherent in all sharply defined characteristics. If