Page images
PDF
EPUB

none can deny that it is one of human origin. The present Archbishop of Canterbury stated this very recently at a public meeting convened to oppose the disestablishment of the Irish State Church. His Grace said:

“Now, the establishment and the union of Church and State has been created by the breath of man, because for the first three centuries we know that there was union between Church and State. It was in the time of Constantine that the union was first effected.”

no

Those who look closely into the present condition and tendencies of the Christian world will have good ground for believing in an approaching dissolution of this union between Church and State in all countries in which such union actually exists. Such a change, if temperately brought about, will, on the whole, be probably more fitted to meet the needs and circumstances of modern Christendom than the system of Establishments—it will be better both for State and Church. But the question of the practical adoption of that great change must be determined not only by abstract principle and logical argument, but also by a careful consideration of all the circumstances of the particular Church and State whose union is being discussed. It may well be that this important subject of Church Establishments ought not to be dealt with either in the narrow spirit of “No surrender,” or after the radical fashion of instant and world-wide abolition. It is not difficult to show weighty reasons which will lead wise legislators to disestablish in one case while refusing to disestablish in another. Let the circumstances of our own country be briefly considered. In the United Kingdom there are two Church Establishments—that of the Episcopal Church in England and Ireland, and that of the Presbyterian Church in Scotland. Now, although the principle of Establishment is common to both, there are yet very wide and essential differences in the circumstances and condition of these countries, and of their Church Establishments. Thus, England and Scotland are essentially Protestant countries, their respective Establishments being the oldest and largest Protestant communion in each country, much of whose spiritual teaching is in harmony with that of the Nonconformist Churches. Ireland, on the other hand, is essentially Roman Catholic-so much so, that she remains faithful to Rome despite her union to Protestant England, and despite all the efforts (often amounting, in past times, to actual persecution) made by the English government to protestantise the sister island. Yet the Establishment maintained by law in Ireland is that of the Church of the small minority, which the great majority of the Irish consider heretical and schismatical. For England thus to force a Protestant Establishment on Ireland is as unjust as it would be for Ireland to force a Roman Catholic Establishment on England. It is the same wrong which was done in past times when England endeavoured to force upon Presbyterian Scotland an Episcopal State Church. That injustice brought innumerable evils upon both England and Scotland. A like injustice has brought like evils upon both England and Ireland. At length to Presbyterian Scotland was granted what she desired, a Presbyterian Establishment: let Roman Catholic Ireland have what she desires. Happily the Irish Roman Catholics do not demand the establishment of their Church, or the endowment of their priests. What they do ask for is, that all Churches should, in Ireland, be placed on an equal footing, and be supported by the voluntary contributions of their respective members.

With such wide differences existing in the cases of England, Scotland, and Ireland, surely the wisest practical course is not to preach a crusade against all State Churches, but to enter into a well-considered compromise. That compromise should be, to allow the Establishments in England and Scotland to continue, but to disestablish the State Church in Ireland. In effecting such disestablishment in the latter country, the life interests of all living ministers should be preserved untouched ; all vested rights should be dealt with in the spirit of the most scrupulous justice ; and the grants to Maynooth and to the Irish Presbyterians be in like manner done away with. Such a compromise as the one thus indicated will not, perhaps, please the ultra-partisans of Church Establishments, who will agree to no change, nor yet the ultra-advocates of the Voluntary system, who would sweep away all Establishments at once, without regard to place, time, or circumstances; yet surely this compromise would be the wisest course, getting rid, as it would, of an obvious wrong in the case of Ireland, while leaving those who come after us to determine whether the principle

of Establishment or of non-Establishment shall ultimately prevail in England and in Scotland. Let those who to-day refuse to surrender anything beware. Ought they not to take warning from very recent events? Have not those who only two or three years ago opposed all change upon another great question—that of parliamentary reform-found themselves (after defeating a proposition for a moderate change) obliged to consent the very next year to an immediate and sweeping alteration of the law upon that very question ? Thus it was that stout opponents of reform but played the game of the thoroughgoing reformers. To-day, strong Conservatives and fervid Churchmen cry “No surrender” when the question of Ireland's State Church is mooted, and declare that if the Irish Establishment falls, the English and Scotch Establishments must fall with it. Had they not better take warning from the past, lest in again opposing all change, and refusing every compromise, they find in the end that they have but been helping forward the cause of the ultra-opponents of all Church Establishments whatever ? As regards the Church of England, her dangers come from within. Let her heal, if possible, her own unhappy divisionsabove all, let her preserve an essentially Protestant character and teaching—for if she do not, she will assuredly lose her hold on the hearts and consciences of England's great, free, and Protestant people. That hold once lost, the fall of England's Church, as a national establishment, is certain,

THE UNITED STATES CON

STITUTION AND THE

SECESSIONISTS.

Reprinted from the Westminster Reviewof 1st April 1866.

1. The Life and Public Services of Abraham Lincoln,

Sixteenth President of the United States. By
HENRY J. RAYMOND. New York: Derby and

Miller. 2. The Constitution of the United States of America,

By W. HICKLEY. Philadelphia, 1854. 3. Bacon's Guide to American Politics. London :

Sampson Low, Son, & Co. 4. The Presidential Message, Dec. 3, 1865, of Andrew

Johnson, Seventeenth President of the United
States.

TRAVELLER landing in America for the first

time has much difficulty in forming a true idea of the political condition of the country. The first impression is that of so much confusion, of such a Babel of meetings, of speeches, of pamphlets, of papers,

« PreviousContinue »