Page images
PDF
EPUB

pletely triumphant. The charge brought against the house of Judah by the Prophet Ezekiel, as the cause of God's judgments coming upon them, was, that they said “the Lord hath forsaken the earth :” and there cannot be a more perfect proof that such is the opinion or maxim held by the present rulers of England, than the fact, that the very same doctrine which so few years back was broached only by the offscouring of political violence, is now hailed as the orthodox creed by our Evangelical Bishops and most learned divines,

We shall now shew, by the greatest authorities, that the maxim of society being the supreme power on earth, and that magistrates are but the officers of that bodythat is, the people being the source of the authority of the rulers-is as repugnant to universal law as it is to revelation. De la Bruyère, in his Caractères, after enumerating various difficulties of the kingly office, says, “When I reflect.....that he (the king) is accountable to God, even for the felicity of his people; that good and evil are in his hands, and that ignorance is no excuse ; I cannot forbear asking myself this question, Wouldest thou reign ?” De la Bruyère knew nothing of being accountable to the people, but felt the awful responsibility of being accountable to God.

Selden (Titles of Honour, p. 158) says, “As the supremacy of princes and their government is delegate from the Highest, their judgments being also called His ; so in a general name they are titled gods, even by God himself, because here on earth they should for their power be his imitators. And therefore they may also in that sense be stiled divi, or di. Divi Christiani reges, saith Contzen, the present professor of divinity in Mentz,' vocari possunt eo modo quo dii, quia Dei sunt vicari, et Dei voce judicant.'

Puffendorf frequently refers to the revealed will of God, as modifying the respective duties of the sovereign and the subject. But this mode of treating the question is more unsatisfactory than that of denying the Divine delegation of rulers altogether ; since, if God has revealed his will at all in the matter, that will must be followed wholly, or “he that offends in one point is guilty of all.” The sovereign is not at liberty to say, “ This part of God's revealed will is fit to be followed, and that part is not; this part is conducive to the welfare of my subjects, and that is not.” Locke indeed argues, that God has never given to any one man authority over the religion of another; and he was the first writer of eminence who carried the doctrine of toleration to the extent of indifference to all truth and falsehood, which now is universally adopted. Barheyrac, who adopts Locke's opinions in his notes to Puffendorf, nevertheless makes exceptions, and says, that, in certain cases, the sovereign must interfere, and punish erroneous religious opinions.

[ocr errors]

The greatest of all authorities upon this subject, and who pre-eminently united in his own person the divine, the philosopher, and the lawyer, is Lord Bacon. A king,” says he, “is a mortal god on earth, unto whom the living God hath lent his own name, as a great honour......He must make religion the rule of government, and not to balance the scale ; for he that casteth in religion only to make the scales even, his own weight is contained in those characters, Mene, mene, tekel upharsin : He is found too light, his kingdom shall be taken from him. And that king that holds not religion the best reason of state, is void of all piety and justice, the supporters of a king.

We would recommend this last sentence to the particular attention of Dr. Arnold, and of all others who coincide with his opinions : and although these authorities are sufficient to shew, that, in the estimation of the greatest of men, the maxim that kings are delegates of God, and not of the people, is perfectly clear and obvious; we are astonished that the contrary should ever have been maintained, by any one of higher pretensions to the faculty of reasoning than the most noisy demagogue at a popular election. Our reason for so thinking is, that the very essence of rule seems to consist in there being an inherent and necessary disposition in mankind to do evil, to throw off subjection, and to commit various excesses, not only against God's laws, but against each other. God will bless his own ordinance of degrees of rank, so long as those in the highest rank remember that they owe their elevation to Him, and use its influence for the promotion of His glory : but there cannot be an act of more determinate insubordination, than for the rulers themselves to say that they owe not their elevation to God, but to their fellow-creatures; cease therefore to make God's will the rule of the exercise of their power, and make the people's will the rule instead ; “ worshipping,” in the most literal sense of the passage, “ the creature, in the place of the Creator.” Dr. Arnold, in conformity with his view, maintains, as we have seen, that “magistrates, who are but the officers of society, have no “right to rule contrary to the will of that society, or to exercise any greater power than it may authorize :” which is perfectly true, if his major be granted : we beg, however, to paraphrase the sentence, and say, “ Magistrates, who are but the delegates of Christ, have no right to rule contrary to the will of Christ, or to exercise any power, or to suffer any power to be exercised, other than for the well-being of his church.

When Louis XVIII. returned to France, it was proposed to him that he should remount his throne in virtue of an act of the senate, which, after the abdication of Napoleon, carried on the executive government, and negociated with the allied sovereigns.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

To this proposition Louis peremptorily refused to agree. He founded his title to the throne upon the appointment of God, and he would not consent to receive it as the appointment of the people. In vain did the ambassadors of the senate remonstrate ; in vain did they insist upon the inviolability of their charter; in vain did they insinuate that he wished to re-establish the former abuses of his forefathers. He replied, that he was willing to concede to them all the rights that any charter could secure to them; that he was as little inclined to be a tyrant as they were to submit to one; that he had no objection to return to his exile in England; but that he would never accept that, which was to be held for God, as a gift from the people.

It is hard to discover upon what grounds Dr. Arnold confounds deprivation of power to do an injury to another, with persecution. “ The plea of religion,” he says, “is wholly foreign to the question, except upon such grounds as would authorize direct persecution. If the believers in a true religion claim a title to restrain those who are in error from the enjoyment of their natural rights, in order to have a greater chance of converting them to the truth; then also they may pretend to persecute them directly with the same object; and there is no doubt that a thorough persecution will generally root out the doctrines against which it is directed. Or if they claim a natural superiority on account of the truth of their religion, so that they are fitted to govern unbelievers, or heretics, on the same principles that men govern children; this is a pretension far less reasonable than if we were to claim dominion over those nations whose constitutions were unfavourable to the welfare of their people, or whose moral character we might judge to be inferior

What human power can pronounce authoritatively upon the truth of a religion, when every nation will with equal zeal maintain the truth of its own? Or does Christ authorize his servants, as such, to assume the office of judging the world, until the day when he shall himself appear to pronounce the judgment?

The term, those who are in error, is an ominously slender phrase for Popery, coming out of the mouth of a Doctor of Protestant divinity. And where could he have discovered that Papists were restrained in order to convert them? A tiger is not restrained in order to convert it into a lamb, but in order to prevent its doing mischief. And Dr. Arnold's other mode of conversion is by eradication, or rooting out. To put a man to death, is, to say the very least of it, a very Irish mode of converting him. But the most extraordinary sentence in this passage is, that no human power can pronounce authoritatively upon the truth of a religion; and the reason assigned scarcely less

to our own.

[ocr errors]

extraordinary, namely, because men are obstinate in maintaining falsehood. So, after all, there is no such thing as truth; it is all a matter of opinion; and the Turk or the Bûdhist may afterwards turn out as right, nay, more right, than the Christian! Truly Dr. Arnold is a marvellous instructor in “ Christian duty.” Since if he cannot pronounce upon the truth of religion, we are at a loss to discover the grounds upon which he pretends to teach the duty that flows from it. Now, we beg to inform him, that it is his duty to pronounce authoritatively upon the truth of religion : that, as a responsible being, he is bound to know the truth ; and that he will be justly condemned for not knowing the truth. To deny this, is to promulgate that there is no revelation from God to teach men his truth, but that every one is to make a religion for himself out of his own brain. Above all, it is the duty of a king to know God's will, and to teach that will to his people; to make them act, according to that will, in obedience to him, and in peace towards each other. If those who are enemies to God's will take advantage of the peace, security, and other blessings, which he has always bestowed as concomitants upon that nation which seeks first His face; and if such persons will reside under the protection of that sovereign ; he is not bound to inflict any bodily injury upon them, but he is bound not to allow them to exercise power over God's people, who are in a most especial manner entrusted to the protection of Christian princes. So that the line between toleration and persecution is perfectly clear and distinct, and is never confounded, but for the purpose of perplexing men's minds upon the question. Out of this duty of the sovereign grows, also, the only right which he can have for teaching any thing whatever under the name of religion to his people. Dr. Arnold is very anxious that the Church of England should remain with all her power and property just as she is (page 50); but the sovereign authority of England has no right to take from the wealth of the whole community in order to pay the priests of one particular sect, unless it be that the sovereign can authoritatively pronounce that the creed which these priests teach is truth. This opinion of Dr. Arnold's, that no human power can pronounce authoritatively upon the truth of religion, is pure unmitigated infidelity : it is the very ground upon which all the infidels in England are honestly endeavouring to take the church property and convert it to the exigencies of the state ; and we are decidedly of opinion, that, if Dr. Arnold's assertion be true, then the infidels are right, and that no church establishment ought to stand. Indeed, for what purpose is it to stand ? What can be the use of the rulers of a people teaching a creed upon the truth of which they cannot pronounce? They may have been teaching the wrong one at last, and so destroy

ing, instead of benefiting, the people. And as the withdrawing of the property of the people, except for the necessities of the state, is unjust, the taxation of the whole for the payment of comparatively a few priests is the height of injustice.

One of the most extraordinary passages in this essay on Christian duty is the following :-“În fact, if men of different religions are to live together in peace, they must abstain from a direct interference with each other's tenets; just as, in marriages between two persons of different persuasions, an arrangement is commonly made which limits the influence of either parent over their common children, and determines that some shall be brought up in the opinions of their father, and others in those of their mother.”—Upon the question of the marriage of Christians with idolaters let us hear the word of God : « Be

ye

not unequally yoked together with unbelievers : for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness ? and what communion hath light with darkness ? and what concord hath Christ with Belial ? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? and what agreement hath the temple of God with idols ? for ye are the temple of the living God : as God hath said ; I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore, come out from among them, and be

ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and

ye

shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” (2 Cor. vi. 14—18.) Here we find the very case which is directly condemned, totidem verbis, by God's word, held up for our example by this Reverend Divine in an essay Christian duty;" and the corollary from the proposition is, that the Christian shall not attempt to turn the Papist from the error of his ways! This is very natural advice from a man who says no human power can pronounce authoritatively upon what is truth; but it is very little likely to be attended to by those who can, and who will, pronounce authoritatively upon the subject : who believe, though they receive neither rank, nor power, nor wealth, from saying that they so believe, that the doctrinal articles of the Church of England do contain that truth without a belief in which no human soul can escape

everlasting perdition; and that the doctrinal articles of the Church of Rome do contain that falsehood, of self-righteousness and human merit, which will inevitably destroy to all eternity those who are misled by it. This Liberal Doctor is not without some practical measure for enforcing his advice, which we recommend to the earnest and serious attention of all who call themselves by the name of Christian, and who have not had every spark of holy Christian love extinguished by the withering Liberalism of the day. “A Puritan clergy in Ireland, or a clergy at all partaking of the spirit of Puritanism, would

on

« PreviousContinue »