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On this principle we have always felt obliged to stand aloof from one of Mr. Noel's favourite schemes, we mean the Evangelical Alliance: one of his accusations against the clergy of the establishment is their refusal to unite with it. Beautiful as it is in theory that all true Christians should agree, it becomes difficult in practice to bring about the union, as we see the Committee are obliged to require a subscription to certain points of evangelical doctrine. This affords a decisive argument against the dissenters, and in favour of subscribing some form. If a certain body of all denominations should agree to dine together in London every day for one week in the year, and converse on religious subjects for the elucidation of truth and for mutual edification, there would be something tangible in the scheme ; but when those who meet must agree on certain points, and be on the best possible terms with those who differ from them on open questions, and where one party are endeavouring with all their power to sever the connexion between Church and State, we think the apparent union worse than a hollow truce. The dissenters who invite our ministers into their alliance and yet write and speak as the Independents generally do, seem to us to say, “My dear brother, I am delighted to see you ; let us read the Bible together, let us cultivate fraternity, let us love each other as we ought—but in the mean time I am sure you will not object to my-picking your pocket.'
Again we read, “ It is as unreasonable in the State to provide religious instruction for the nation and force them to pay for it, as it would be for a father to provide a physician and a lawyer and force his sons to employ them after they were of age to judge for themselves. The State does not find our advisers in law and medicine, why then find our clergy?” We have heard of a book called 66 Every Man his own Lawyer.” Now Mr. Noel ought to write one to show that every man has a right to be his own chancellor; that the judges and officers of the courts should be paid as they are wanted, that the people (the true source of power) should be able by their votes to elect them, and also to displace them at pleasure by withholding their salaries; that Westminster Hall should henceforth be conducted not in the name of the Queen, or endowed at her expense, but that there should be " no king in Israel, and that every man should do that which is right in his own eyes." Mr. Noel proves that the minister of the Gospel is in a certain sense the Episcopus (the overseer or ruler of the congregation), as well as the Diaconus (the servant or adviser of his brethren). To execute his office aright, and support the godly discipline for which our
author contends, he must be to a certain extent independent of those over whom he rules. It would be a novel description of forensic arrangement to have the attorney-general or the judges supported by a voluntary tax upon prisoners, insolvents, and others, whose practice has been contrary to sound doctrine; and it is nearly as great an anomaly to suppose that a minister is to a certain extent to be a judge in his own court, to let no man despise him, but with all authority to reprove, to rebuke, and to exhort those on whom he is dependent for his daily subsistence.
As to the medical profession the analogy is much stronger. A laborious education and a severe test are required before any man can receive the sanction of the legislature in prescribing for his neighbour. In a free country quackery must be tolerated as well as dissent; but the self-taught physician, whatever skill he may possess, or the self-constituted minister, whatever be his piety, must appeal to the individuals who trust or approve of him: the king does not recognize his office. But the medical profession is not only authorized by the State, it is also endowed by it where endowment is required. If we could only agree that mankind are as sensible of their spiritual wants as they are anxious for bodily health, we should go even farther than Mr. Noel, we might shut our churches and dismiss our pastors, except a few hundreds who might administer the sacraments at stated periods ; these would be so cordially received, nay, men would so teach and stimulate each other by their mutual exhortations, that in a short time the earth would be “filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. But as unfortunately this is not the case, and the mission of the Christian Church is aggressive, it becomes its first object to show the want of itself. Many parts of the kingdom, however, have been found so poor and so ignorant, that the State has been obliged to interfere to provide medical assist
This has been done all over Ireland to the manifest improvement of the medical charities.
It is really extraordinary that those who cry out most against tithes, are the manufacturers, who pay least. The reason seems to be that in great towns the endowment is not sufficient for its purpose, the benefit is less felt, and therefore the union is looked upon as a grievance rather than a blessing. The landed interest do not object to tithes, though they pay them in a much larger proportion: the reason is, that the country clergy have proper time to attend to their duties, and the advantage of the pious pastor and educated gentleman is really felt by his neighbours. Why then should the manufacturers complain who pay less ? The Radicals are, therefore, unfair; they say, We hate the Church
because we derive no benefit from it; and though we scarcely pay for it ourselves, we object to its payment by the landed interest who really value the institution. Let us suppose Mr. Noel's theory carried out. A large proportion of the country churches in England, and probably three-fourths of the country churches in Ireland would be closed, the whole Protestant population of three provinces' (who settled under a guarantee from the State for religious instruction) would be left unprovided for, the whole country would be given up to the priests, and the island would in a few years resemble Spain or Italy in the fourteenth century. But let us view the matter in a political light. If England had given up the temporalities of the Irish Church some years ago, and allowed the late race of clergy to die off without supplying their place, what would have been the condition of the country in 1846? It is now admitted on all hands that but for the supplies sent by England, two million of the Irish must have died of famine. As the connecting link is the Church establishment, the clergy became the almoners of England. As Ireland has had a famine about once in thirty years, if Mr. Noel and his party succeed, when another year of scarcity comes the peasantry of Ireland will only feel their loss when it is too late.
The Free Church of Scotland seems to be Mr. Noel's model of perfection. He would therefore allow glebe lands and private endowments. We hope he will not be offended when we show that in what he says here he admits the whole principle for which we contend." (The Free Church, by the way, are not voluntaries ; they claim a support from the State, but will not accept it on the terms offered.) Now we really do not see the difference between the principle of a private benefaction vested in trustees and secured by the State, and an endowment directly from the State. Let us suppose a case. It is a hardship for a dissenter to be obliged to pay tithe for which he bargained when he took his farm. Now let us change the words : suppose a glebe of fifty acres be left by private endowment, and the minister of a dissenting chapel or free church, having many engagements, were to let the whole or a part to a tenant on a lease. If the successor of this tenant be a High Churchman, and so disagree as we do from the principles laid down by Mr. Noel,
? By the returns of 1832, there were in the three southern archdioceses of Ireland (nearly coincident with the provinces of Leinster, Connaught, and Munster), 334,342 Protestants, all steady supporters of the British Crown. Of these, very few are dissenters, and the congregations are very much scattered. There al 2422 parishes in Ireland, and not more than a fourth could maintain a minister under Mr. Noel's system.
and taught in the chapel, would the said High Churchman be bound to pay the rent? and would the dissenting minister be guilty of schism (as Mr. Noel says our clergy are) in provoking a quarrel by distraining for his right?
The statistics of the Free Church give the voluntaries, as they suppose, the greatest cause for triumph. A whole nation, say they, has thrown off Erastianism and the power of the State, and the Free Church of Scotland is now self-governed. Mr. Noel gives us a summary of the congregations in Scotland in 1847, which we extract in order to show the evil which a modified degree of Mr. H. Noel's principles has produced Ministers of the Establishment
1105 Free Church
625 Associate Synod
393 Original Seceders
101 English Episcopalians
Total Free Churches 1422 The first six of these bodies are all Presbyterians; they agree as nearly as possible in all the principles of doctrine, discipline, and practice, and they all claim the right of being the true and legitimate descendants of Calvin and John Knox; yet, for a mere trifle, each has seceded from the parent stock, and they have virtually excommunicated each other. The Free Church brand the Establishment as Erastian, and accuse them of following Cæsar rather than Christ. Like all partizans who take a strong step, they are bound to justify their own conduct by severely attacking the body they have left. In one point, however, the Free Church is superior to Mr. Noel; their object is to vest the appointment of all ministers in “the male heads of families being communicants." Mr. Noel would place it " in the people," " in the congregation," or in some undefined or imaginary body of spiritual Christians, to be found in every separate Church. Here we take the liberty of saying, that the Free Church assumes more than the Church of England. Mr. Noel objects to the King, for Henry VIII. was a wicked man in domestic and public life; to the Lords, because they are a mixed assembly of men of all characters; to the Commons, because the majority are unconverted : but he does not see, that by vesting it in the male heads of families (we take this as a defined body, and Mr. Noel fixes none), he is assuming, in a greater degree, the very point on which he must separate from the Church of England—we mean, the purity of man. We have always supposed the king to be a good patron in theory (not because he cannot morally do wrong), but because legally he is placed above the vulgar influences by which mankind are usually swayed. We adınit, since Reform, a prime minister is in this sense even a worse patron than he was before, but that is merely because the people have more power: An absolute monarch is, perhaps, the only person who can choose his officers merely from their fitness for their places ; but the fact of being absolute will probably lead him to make a bad choice, as his own pleasure will be his guide rather than the interests of his subjects: even so, we consider him a much better patron than a multitude. It is really hard to deny infallibility to the pope, and then gravely argue for the infallibility of the male heads of families. It seems to us, that the lower we descend in the scale of life, the less likely we are to find purity in patronage. The House of Commons is not the most dignified tribunal in the world, nor is it at all competent to decide on spiritual matters; but would Mr. Noel prefer the booths of a contested election? The people combine all the evils of the Commons (who are only their nominees), and bring with them the additional difficulties of numbers, ignorance, and the excitement of the moment.
We thus dispose of Mr. Noel's arguments upon patronage; they all proceed from the false premise, that the people must be pure. He admits the whole principle of endowment by recognizing the glebes of the Free Church and the cities of the Levites. He allows that property should follow the will of the donor, and only differs from us by asking that the people should be the trustees. The best trustee is certainly the one who will see that the duties are performed, and the property given to the performer. Now we fancy that the bishop, or a chapter, or even the lay patron, or the Crown, combining the powers of all three, is not perhaps the best trustee for the endowment, but he is much better than the multitude of the congregation.
After the question of patronage comes the question of responsibility. Here the constitution of England, having given the minister certain spiritual rights, a good degree, and the charge of a parish, takes the power altogether from the lay patron and places it in the spiritual authority, the bishops or the judges appointed by them. To both these Mr. Noel objects; still upholding the voluntary system as the best check on clerical misconduct, and the best stimulus to pastoral exertion. He writes against the system of excommunication, which seems to haunt him, like the ghost of some departed archbishop; but it is