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tical functions, more practically instructing the younger members of the Church in the principles of their religion, inspecting the morals of the individuals composing the Christian society to which they belonged, administering wholesome reproof to the weaker brethren, and composing, by their authority, any feuds that existed amongst them. The Bishops who are mentioned in the Epistles, seem to have been no more than Elders, as the word that is thus rendered in the common version of the Scriptures signifies merely an overlooker or superintendent, by which it would have been more correctly translated: and no such lords as those now designated by the title of bishop, exercising both a temporal and spiritual authority, were ordained either by Christ or his apostles. The rites and officers appointed by them in the Christian church were, therefore, few; and as to a subordination of the ministry,' in the sense these words seem to be used in the passage quoted above, as indicating different grades of authority and rank amongst the first teachers of Christianity, no such thing appears to have existed in the apostolic age: all were equal as ministers of Christ, who had himself expressly forbidden his disciples to assume any superior authority one over another in these emphatic words; Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them; but it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister, and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant, even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.' (Matt. xx. 25-28.)
The rites and officers, then, which were instituted by Christ and his apostles, were not such as peculiarly appertain to an established religion in alliance with the state;-they are not in any way necessarily connected with an alliance of this nature, and they cannot be adduced as an argument in support of it. They are not, in the remotest degree, related to the policy which dictated a union of church and state-they confer none of the powers and sanction none of the ordinances which, in such unions, have been exercised and decreed. The society, formed by the great founder of Christianity, was of a purely religious kind-it had nothing political in its nature or its tendency, in its spirit or its constitution, in its rites or its doctrines: nor did Christ or his apostles ever utter a single precept recommending its alliance with the state; they never made the most distant allusion to it; and from the whole New Testament, not one passage can be brought that gives any sanction to it as of Divine authority or appointment.
2. The next principle on which the advocates of an alliance of the church with the state may attempt to defend it, is, that
the religion established is the true religion, and ought, therefore, to be protected by the government. This principle must be founded on one or both of these two reasons, either that true religion is necessary to the future salvation of the soul, or to the welfare of the present life ;-if on the first, the magistrate, whose office is entirely civil in its nature, relating to the affairs of this world only, can properly take no cognizance of religion in his public capacity, without going far beyond the duties he was appointed to perform, and entering into a province which lies not within his jurisdiction; if on the latter, it may be justly urged against his interference with the interests of true religion, that they may be as extensively preserved without the sanction of his authority, or the aid of his protection, and that such interference is not calculated to promote them-as is sufficiently evident from the history of all religious establishments, these being unable, from the constitution of the human mind, and the nature of religion itself, to produce a general uniformity of belief in the articles of the established faith, or a virtuous course of conduct consistent with Christian principles; and, what is equally indicative of their inefficiency to produce the proposed object, having, moreover, generally injured instead of promoted the welfare of society, by cruel persecutions and invidious distinctions, inflicting severe penalties on the most upright and pious individuals, and exciting in the hearts of thousands the most malignant passions, by which communities, that would otherwise have been peaceful and happy, have been thrown into insurrectionary commotions, and been exposed to dreadful calamities.
It may be further objected generally to the principle of establishing a religion on the ground that it is true, that it involves a very important question, a satisfactory decision of which is absolutely necessary to its consistency; viz.: Whether the established religion be the true one? The magistrate is not, perhaps, the most proper person to settle this question, as there is nothing in the usual habits or business attached to his office, to render him peculiarly fitted to act as a spiritual judge, or to decide, amongst disputed opinions, on matters of faith and morals, which is true, and which is false. Now, as there can be only one true religion, if the magistrate is to decide in every country what that is, it must necessarily happen that false religion will be established in all places where the true is not embraced by the magistrate; and there is no uncharitableness in the supposition that this would happen in a majority of places, as, indeed, must inevitably be the case, unless magistrates possessed a much greater portion of wisdom and piety than other men, and were exempted from all liability to error, which, unfortunately for the world, they never yet have been, nor is there any reason to suppose they ever will be. Since magistrates,
then, like all human beings, are subject to errors of judgementsince they are exposed to the various and powerful influences of education, passion and prejudice, we may be assured that, as on all other subjects, so on religion, they would fall into serious mistakes, and the churches they connected with the several states over which they exercised supreme control, would be as various as their own minds and feelings, and errors of every description would be intimately connected with them;-so that the interests of true religion, which this principle of establishing it as such is supposed to preserve, would thus be most essentially injured by the general prevalence and domination of the false. The principle, then, is absurd; as, even by acting upon it, the end and object at which it aims, namely, the protection and support of true religion, could not be attained.
A still stronger objection may be made to this principle; viz., that the magistrate has no right to judge, in his official capacity, for any other individual, much less for a whole people, what constitutes true religion. This right appertains not to his office as supreme civil governor of the nation; it was never conceded to him by his subjects, who, indeed, had no power to grant it, since it is the duty of every man to exercise his own judgement in matters of religion, as he must be accountable to a higher power than any earthly prince for his conduct; and he cannot, therefore, authorise another to dictate what religious opinions he shall believe, as to no other can he transfer his moral responsibility. It will be unnecessary here to combat, for a moment, the old abandoned doctrine of the Divine right of kings; or to prove, by any formal process of reasoning, that, as the civil ruler has never been entrusted by his subjects with the sacred authority of deciding what is true in religion, he has not received any such authority from Heaven; and it may therefore be safely concluded, without any additional proof, that the assumption of it is an usurpation of the most sacred and inalienable of the rights of man.
3. The last principle on which a religious establishment allied to the state may be advocated-and it is the chief ground of fence on which its modern supporters rely-is its utility. It is said to be highly useful in promoting religion amongst the people, which could not exist, it is intimated, without being established. The former part of this assertion is very questionable, as will subsequently appear; and the latter is utterly false, being a gross libel on the nature of true religion, as if it owed its very being to the state-and what better argument than this could those who deny the truth of all religion desire against it? From the very concessions of its adversaries,' they might say, 'you see what their boasted religion is not a thing of heavenly origin, as they are anxious to make us believe, but entirely of the earth, in its whole nature and character "earthy," owing its existence to state policy,
and being merely its creature and tool': and, in fact, such a mode of reasoning has not unfrequently led men of a sceptical turn of mind, who saw how completely the established religion was converted into such a tool, to renounce all faith in it-a pretty strong proof, by the way, of its inutility. To remove, however, all objections of this kind, resulting from the established abuses of religion, it may be asserted with great truth, that nothing is, in its very nature, more independent of the state, and more capable of existing without its protection, Religion may be defined to be, a belief in certain great and important truths, such as, that there is a God, who is the moral governor of the world; and a future state of retribution, in which the wicked will be punished, and the virtuous rewarded,-requiring an exemplary course of conduct consistent with a faith in these solemn truths. Such, at least, we may assume as a general definition of revealed religion. What necessary connexion, then, is there between such a belief and its support by the state? Should the state become infidel, and decree that there was no God, would it necessarily follow that we should cease to believe in the existence of a God? Or, should it be Polytheistical, and command the worship of many idols, such as the Pagan establishments supported, would our faith in the being of one sole and universal Deity be as necessarily altered? Nay, should it persecute all those who would not bow down in the temples, or offer up sacrifice on the altars of these idols, could it compel men sincerely to conform to their worship? Outward conformity might be practised by multitudes to escape the penalties attached to disobedience to the orders of the state, but it would be no proof of inward conviction-the idols might be worshipped and despised so that the religious belief of the worshippers might remain unchanged by the strictest state-decrees, which would only avail in making men hypocrites, and in being injurious, instead of useful, to their religious welfare. But in spite of such decrees, and all the persecution that enforced them, many persons would refuse to worship the idols, and serve God according to the honest convictions of their own minds;-thus, in open defiance of all the punishments the state could inflict, true religion has existed, and been practised. Did not Christianity itself, at its commencement, thus exist without the patronage, and spread notwithstanding the persecution of the state? After its corruptions in the dark ages, did not the reformation of it take place (so far as it did take place) in opposition to temporal as well as spiritual authority? And from the Protestant established churches, that arose out of it, have not numerous Dissenters always existed, the best friends of both civil and religious liberty, who would never submit to the decrees of the state, respecting forms of worship, or articles of faith; but in the face of all sorts of penalties, and under the
infliction of the severest sufferings, nobly persevered in worshipping God according to the dictates of conscience? Religion does not, then, depend upon the state for its existencenor is there any necessary connexion between them resulting from its nature. Consisting in belief, and a conduct accordant with it, it can exist independent of the splendid edifices, pompous erections, and richly-endowed sees of an established church-it can exist independent of the crowded temple, and the surpliced priest-in the rudest dwellings, in the most lonely and obscure retreats, it can exist without the cognizance or the protection of the state. When Jesus prayed on the naked mountain, or in the solitary desert, there was religion-when his followers were driven from places of public resort to untenanted rocks and unpeopled caverns, and in them bowed the knee to God, there was religion-and wherever the humblest worshipper offers up his devotion to Heaven in sincerity and truth, though it be in the secret retirement of his chamber, away from all human society, there religion is, existing in the heart, breathing from the lips, and influencing the conduct.
To those who deny the possibility of religion existing separate from an Establishment, it may be proposed as a question worthy of their serious consideration, whether it does not exist amongst the numerous classes of Dissenters from the Established Church of this country, and whether the members of that church can offer any stronger proofs of their being in possession of the true faith, or of true piety, than the great body of Christians who have left it? If sacrifices of worldly advantage in various ways if the loss of reputation, if voluntary exposure to obloquy for conscience's sake, be proofs of religion reigning as a dominant principle in the mind and heart, these proofs may be brought as evidences of its vital influence over thousands out of the pale of the Establishment, and others, equally powerful, may be found, if sought for, in the pious attendance on Divine worship, and the eminent virtues, both private and public, of numerous individuals in the several societies of Christian Dissenters. Should it be objected, that these virtues may be owing, in a great measure, to the Established Church; that much of the respect in which religion is generally held may be traced to the influence that church has exerted on the moral feelings of the community at large, by the illustrious example of its faith and piety; and that, but for this example, religion would have fallen entirely into disesteem, and been banished from the kingdom;-to those who make this bold assertion, of which it is unnecessary here to enter into a particular refutation, another question may be proposed for their candid and serious considerationDoes not religion exist in that land of civil and religious freedom, to which many excellent and pious men were driven, in former times, by the persecutions of the Established Church of England,