« FöregåendeFortsätt »
tinction, without the aid of the magistrate, who, by dividing the country into commodious districts, and planting in each a clerical teacher, affords to all its inhabitants the means of religious instruction. And should it be said, to diminish this advantage, that the magistrate's religion may possibly be erroneous; yet still, let it be remembered, that there is scarce any religion which is not better than none, as there is scarce any which does not inculcate some important principles of moral duty. Besides, under a complete toleration, which is here supposed, if the people be not satisfied with the religion established, they are left to their own liberty; the magistrate comes not to dictate, but to assist; he says, I have provided for you the best I can; if you can do better for yourselves, I am glad of it.
One apparent advantage of the scheme now stated, and in which it is little inferior to that of a toleration without an establishment, is, that it unites all the citizens in a zealous attachment to their country, where they all have a common concern, and where,
every invidious distinction being set aside, each is permitted to aspire after any privilege or office, to which his virtues or talents may recommend or entitle him. Thus a nation is bound together by a regard to individual honour and interest, the strongest of all human ties; their resources are consolidated; they are better able to resist foreign violence, or to quell internal disturbance; and to advance still further their common security and welfare.
On the other hand it must be acknowledged, that it is a scheme which, however favourable it may be to the state, may endanger the stability of the church. For as it allows to dissenters a free access to every station of public trust and influence, and even to a place in the senate or in the cabinet, they may at length get full possession of the government; and then (as on a former occasion we have remarked) it is probable they would change the present ecclesiastical establishment for another more agreeable to their own principles. By what methods, under a complete toleration, the church may
best secure itself against such a revolution, we shall endeavour to show at large in the next section.
Of a partial toleration we may observe, that, in regard to religion only, it is nearly upon a level with that which is complete; since it leaves every one without compulsion, either to join himself to the establishment, or to pursue his own edification in any way he may think better. In other respects, the difference appears more considerable. The tendency of a coniplete toleration, as we have seen, is in favour of the state, but unfavourable to the establishment. On the contrary, a partial toleration may seem to give more' security to the establishment, as it ex, cludes from the government all those who might endanger its safety; and to be less favourable to the state, as it tends to breed dissatisfaction in a body of citizens truly attached to their country, by laying them under incapacities of serving it, and of serving it too in ways which yield both honour and emolument. And though very moderate men might overlook such discriminations, others would resent them; and it is the part of a wise government, by every possible measure, to prevent or remove such offences, and to unite all its subjects in the same affectionate attachmenť to one another, and to the general welfare.
II. Of the expediency of a national establishment of religion, were we to take our opinion from the general usage of the world, we should judge very favourably. Warburton goes so far as to maintain, that through all antiquity the practice was universal. “ We find,” says he, “all states and people in the ancient world had' an established religion, which was under the more immediate protection of the civil magistrate, in contradistinction to those who were only tolerated *.” This he elsewhere extends to modern times; and to support his assertion, cites a passage from Tavernier, a famous voyager, who, in his account of Tonquin, thus speaks: “ I come now to the political description of this kingdom, under which I comprehend the religion, which is almost every where in concert with the civil ga
* Div. Leg. vol. i. p. 231.
vernment, for the mutual support of each other *.” It must be noted, however, that all the establishments of paganism have far more respect to rites and ceremonies, than to points of truth, or of mere speculative opinion. “ It is to be observed,” says the author of the Alliance, “ that unity in the object of faith, and agreement to a formulary of dogmatic theology, as the terms of communion, is the great foundation and bond of a religious society. Now, in all the pagan religions, there is only conformity in national ceremonies; there being no room for the object of faith, or a formulary of dogmatic theology; for as to matters of belief and opinion, it was not judged of moment to determine whether their gods were real' persons, or only the symbols of natural powers. Nor did their mysteries consist so much in abstruse points of speculation, as in secret practices t.” The above appears, on the whole, to be à just account, and may show us the general pre
* Alliance between Church and State, p. 113-14.
Ibid. p. 173-4.