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for Fenian plottings. To keep the Irish State Church in existence is really a help to Fenianism. Among its best allies, therefore, are those who would maintain intact the present ecclesiastical condition of Ireland. If they can succeed in upholding the dominant church, so much the better for Fenianism, and so much the worse for England. A like system of church supremacy was tried for years in Canada, with what result England knows to her cost. At length it has been changed for one of absolute religious freedom and equality. The benefits which have sprung from that change have surpassed the most sanguine expectations. Is not the lesson one which he who runs may read? With such results before their eyes, how much longer are English legislators going to stand face to face with the Irish Church difficulty, asking hopelessly what is to be done, or pitifully wrangling about the manner of procedure ?
Is England become so dull that she cannot even learn by experience ? Or is it deemed wise to wait until an indignant people, newly enfranchised, sweep away at a single blow the crying wrong, levelling all injustices, not with over-careful hand, but rather in the fierceness of their wrath? Or will the retrograde party resist all innovation until the storm of popular opinion grow loud and menacing ; then hustle through a sweeping change (which in their hearts they hate, but dare not refuse) leaving some one of their number, “faithful among the faithless," to write the story of another “Conservative surrender?"
Be all that as it may, true Liberals, at any rate, must pledge themselves to the principle of absolute religious liberty and equality, at least in Ireland. What ministry shall carry out that programme is a secondary consideration. The vital point is to do it thoroughly, and to do it quickly. Which is the best plan to adopt; that of endowing all denominations in proportion to their number, or that of endowing none? With all deference to more than one high authority, the writer unhesitatingly advocates the latter principle, that of no longer endowing any church, due regard being had to existing life interests, The example of Canada is strongly in favour of such a course.
There the system of paying all was tried, and found to be but a half-measure that did not satisfy. Whereas that of paying none, leaving each church to be supported by its own members, while handing over the old ecclesiastical funds for educational and other purposes, has completely settled the vexed question, and ended in creating general contentment. Nor must it be forgotten that the Roman Catholics of Ireland demand the application of this very principle; they ask for “the disendowment of the Established Church," for the "placing of all religious denominations on a footing of perfect equality, and leaving each church to be maintained by the voluntary contributions of its members.” Such is the language of the Irish National Association, of which most of the Roman Catholic prelates are members. It would be heartily endorsed by the whole body of English Noneon-formists. It enunciates a principle which the Scotch, and probably the evangelical party in the Church of England, would much prefer to that of either endowing or paying all denominations according to their numbers. While those who have freed themselves from ecclesiastical fetters, and from the special dogmas of particular churches, would give a far more ready assent to a measure that endowed none, than to a measure that endowed all. Complete disunion of the spiritual from the temporal power can alone bestow the boon of freedom alike upon the Churches and upon the State. Let it, then, be applied, and applied at once, to Ireland, just as has been done in Canada. There the angry strife of religious denominations no longer troubles the State, because there the State secures full religious freedom and equality to its subjects of every race and of every creed.
Moreover, this principle of disconnecting all churches from the civil power is in harmony with the highest and truest views of Christian liberty. By it the temporal ruler treats religion as alone it should be treated, as a matter of conscience, not as an affair of State. He thereby declares himself unwilling and unable to legislate about those matters of religious faith for whích a man is accountable, not to his fellow-man, but to his conscience and his God. Such sacred subjects must be dealt with by the convictions of the heart. Upon that foundation alone can man build his spiritual life. This is no question for a party debate, nor can it be decided by a majority of votes, nor be regulated by a State legislature. Far other is the tribunal which alone of right gives sentence in this deepest of man's concerns, in which the human and the divine are inseparably blended-even the tribunal where in secret the soul of man communes and pleads with the God and Father of mankind.
Those who say that their creed will not endure under a system thus bereft of all State aid, can have but little real belief in its divine origin or life. Those, on the contrary, who have no like fears, who believe that divine truth possesses divine power, will welcome such perfect freedom for the truth's own sake, as well as for themselves and for their brother men. For they at least believe that never is truth more secure, never is its purity more unalloyed, than when itself is true to the cause of freedom and is faithful to the rights of conscience.
Touching what has been justly termed the Irish difficulty, Englishmen must remember, that to ask what suits England in this matter, what is in consonance with her feelings and ideas, is emphatically not the question. That difficulty can be satisfactorily settled by the imperial legislature of the United Kingdom only when it has determined to consider above all what is good for Ireland, what is in accordance with her needs, what suits the character, the habits, and the genius of her people. The great object to be aimed at, as necessary to the welfare both of Great Britain and Ireland, is not uniformity of system as regards either land or church, but an equal, just, and cordial union. England and Scotland have attained that result to their great and common
advantage. But they have attained it by sacrificing the letter of outward uniformity to the spirit of living unity. In their church systems and in their legal proceedings and customs there are marked differences, in accordance with the different characters and wishes of their respective people. So must it be with Ireland, if she is to become a contented and prosperous member of our body politic. Let then the argument, that such a course is not followed in England, and does not agree with her precedents, be heard no more. All such prejudices must be cast off for ever.
The one paramount question is, What is good for Ireland ? what is suited to her condition and needs? To these alone must England lend a willing ear, and give a helping hand. For thus only can efficacious remedies be applied to our sister's ills; thus only can be satisfied the righteous cry of “ Justice for Ireland.”
In dealing with the question of Ireland's State Church it is worthy of observation that extreme Conservatives and extreme Radicals not unfrequently unite in declaring that if the Irish Church be disestablished, the English and Scotch Churches must necessarily be disestablished also. Doubtless there are some principles common to all Establishments, and some arguments equally adverse to all ; others, however, there are of less wide scope; there is, besides, the all-important question of the practical application of general principles—a question which must be very carefully considered when actual legislation is contemplated.
Now, as regards the principle of Establishments,