« PreviousContinue »
are pleased with the childish things of symbol or picture? The theory is nothing better than an apotheosis of imbecility, childishness, and ignorance; but it serves to exhibit the straits to which Church defenders are driven when they attempt to deal with the present relative position of the Established and Free Churches.
The style of these remarks deliberately proclaimed seems strange as coming from the considerate, conciliatory, and courteous chairman of the Holborn Temple Conference; but I confine my comments to the substance of their meaning.
In the article reviewed by Mr. Guinness Rogers I had noticed that the Liberation Society, premising that when the National Church ceased to embrace the majority of the English people she must cease to be the National Church, had endeavoured to construct out of the statistics of religious worship prepared by Mr. Mann in 1851 an inferential evidence that the Church of England was in a slight minority as compared with Nonconformists; (seeing that on their success in obtaining a general belief in that assumption depends, as they think, their crowning victory in the disestablishment and disendowment of the Church.) And I then continued : This is not the place for discussing the conditions which would eventuate in disestablishment, but it may be easily shown that disestablishment can be no necessary result of a nice numerical comparison between Churchmen and the aggregation of dissentients. If any one of the sects attained a larger following than the Church, it might by a general consensus supersede it as the expression of the religious profession of the country,' &c.
It will be seen that, so far from my entertaining the belief that the religious profession of a nation was to be determined by a mere counting of heads, I had combated the attempt of the Liberation Society to make numerical strength the sole test of nationality, and that Mr. Guinness Rogers has misrepresented and inverted my argument by omitting the first four lines of a paragraph and substituting must for might.
As the Liberation Society have not yet hoisted the Republican flag, I assumed the continuance of the monarchy, and, supposing (for the sake of argument) that some one sect might secure a larger following than the Church, I pointed out that it might be elected as the representative of the religious profession of the country. But, in the absence of this improbable event, I observed that the perpetuation of the monarchy involved the perpetuation of the National Church; for I cannot conceive our returning to an unlimited monarchy freed from the restraints which were imposed upon the Crown with the special object of securing our religion, laws, and liberties.'
Mr. G. Rogers should be more careful in his quotations.
Parliament is omnipotent, and it is within its power to abrogate the entire fabric of the Constitution, to disregard its obligations as a trustee for the people's sake of the Church's rights and property, to
sever religion from any connection with the Crown—to deal, in fact, with the Church and Crown as the republican faction did in the reign of Charles the First. But the calm and fair discussion to which the country has been invited by the Rev. Guinness Rogers must be confined to determining whether the Church can be disestablished and disendowed without doing her any harm, but much to the increase of her spiritual power by relieving her from injurious restraints. Mr. Rogers will have learnt that, in the opinion of the rulers and loyal members of the National Church, the desired relief requires neither the disestablishment nor the disendowment proposed by the Liberationists.
That scheme is now repudiated not only by Mr. J. G. Rogers but by the Liberation Society who framed it, and who, so recently as December 1884, recited the programme of 1877 in a volume of 200 pages written in the confident expectation that the question of disestablishment will come up for settlement in the new Parliament soon to be elected.' 2
Following, however, closely on Mr. Gladstone's postponement of the assault upon the Church, the Liberation Society issued a leaflet 3 impugning the legitimate criticism which had been applied to this the thirteenth clause of the Practical Suggestions. Both ancient and modern buildings and all endowments must be regarded as national property at the disposal of the State.'
It seems no untruthful conclusion to infer from this proposal that the Liberationists desire a power which would enable them to strip the Church bare of every shilling. It is satisfactory, however, to find them recoiling from their own suggestions when viewed in what might be their practical application.
Controversy may exhaust itself upon the subject of this article, but the strongest argument after all in favour of the Church--for it is unquestionable—is the proof of its utility to the nation.
If industry, honesty, purity, truth, and charity are virtues tending to make mankind happy and prosperous, then a Church which inculcates these virtues as rules of conduct must be a national blessing. Say that the Church has been remiss and neglectful and that millions have escaped her teaching—have escaped all religious teaching—who is to blame? The Church ? Yes, but the whole nation also. The Church, it is rejoined, with her vast endowments was especially bound to care for the souls of the people. True, but has she not done so ? The value of her endowments of tithe and glebe is limited, and the tithe of fifty years since is less, and the rent of the glebe of fifty years since is less, now than then. Those ancient endowments are wholly inadequate to the wants of the Church at the present day, and but for the constant accretion to the Church's revenues by fresh gifts the destitution would be even more deplorable. 2 Nonconformist, Dec. 4, 1885.
Ibid. Nov. 26.
More than a million a year may have been supplied by Churchmen to the provision of churches and of clergy to minister in them, but the population has outgrown even that measure of liberality, supplemented by Nonconformist munificence; and although the Church educates, hundreds of districts with their teeming thousands need all the more truly if they do not feel the need--places of worship, schools, and teachers.
Under these circumstances, a desire for the disruption of the Church could only be explained by a jealousy so inveterate that men would sweep away every religious system in the country if only the Established Church could be involved in the common ruin.
That this unchristian spirit prevails largely I do not believe, and, reverting for a moment to the Temple Conference of last year, I rejoice to believe that there are many who, with Dr. Parker, the convener of the Conference, can rejoice to see the neglected masses taught by the Church to the measure of her means, even though religious equality, or the equality of Churches as defined by Mr. G. Rogers, be irreconcilable with the restraint of the Sovereign to the communion of the established religion.
The Liberation Society proclaim these propositions :
1. That the Church of England is the creation, and her clergy the servants, of the State.
2. That the property and revenues of the Church were supplied by the State, and may be resumed by the State to be dealt with at its discretion as national property.
3. That the Church of England, having failed in its mission, forfeits its title to be considered the National Church, and should be disestablished and disendowed, as a prelude to religious equality.'
I reply to these propositions that they are distinctly confuted by every historian of repute, and that the religious equality to which they are meant to lead would involve the repeal of a primary condition on which the Sovereign of England occupies the throne.
The advocates of the equality of religions, which is now the declared object of disestablishment, are challenged to explain whether they wish to abrogate the statute for the limitation of the Crown, and leave the Sovereign free to profess any or no religion, or whether their ultimate aim is to declare a republic.
Thus far no reply has been vouchsafed. Mr. J. G. Rogers personally, and the Liberation Society in its authorised publications, endeavour to escape the dilemma by recording their intention, for the present at least, to leave untouched the Act which binds the Sovereign to the Anglican Church, and so postpone indefinitely the attainment of their coveted ideal.
Have Nonconformists any grievance which can be removed without violating the Constitution ? If they have, let it be shown, and it will be redressed. If they have none, they should the more readily co-operate in affording the relief and effecting the reforms which Churchmen themselves demand, but which the scope and purpose of this article exclude from immediate discussion. Such, at least, presents itself as the patriotic course of loyal and religious Nonconformists who prefer a monarchy and religious liberty to the illusive religious equality which inspired the disowned and discredited Practical Suggestions,' to be realised only in a republic.
DISEASE IN FICTION.
Two successful workers in the art of fiction have written articles endeavouring to explain to the public what they understand to be the mysteries of their art. Both admit that individuality must play a large part, but from this common starting-point they diverge. Mr. Walter Besant dwells on the importance of keeping note-book records of passing events, and seems to say that these must furnish the material to be worked in here or there as required. Mr. Henry James appears to takes a broader view, to allow a wider field for the play of imagination, regarding every item of fact as a germ which is to go through a process of evolution in the author's mind, not necessarily following any law of progressive or retrograde metamorphosis, but simply becoming stamped with the impress of the working brain through which it has passed. Both principles are useful, both have been employed, consciously or unconsciously, by both authors, but the first method only is truly applicable to many instances made use of by novelists, and this is seen most strikingly if we consider the medical machinery so frequently introduced to clear the stage of superfluous characters or to take the place of a plot.
Both our writers dwell on the importance of drawing from the life, of making every fact play its part in the development of story or character. We are reminded how often a novelist has to teach some lesson to an indolent, apathetic public. Scientific text-books are rarely pleasant reading, and so do not enter the sphere of the great majority. The works of Arabella Buckley, Grant Allen, Huxley, and others spread knowledge ; but, however attractively arranged, the scope of the popular scientific article seldom travels beyond some simple questions of biology—it does not embrace, or but rarely embraces, any facts of disease. Here, then, where the popular scientific writer stops, the novelist steps in as the public instructor. If his novel extends over any great length of time, characters must pass out of it; and that this weeding out should be effected in the most interesting way, the author should draw from experience, or from actual knowledge of no uncertain character. He may perhaps be fortunate enough not to have personal reminiscences to supply his