Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

of battling for his own private forms for expressing the inexpressible and defining the undefinable, a man takes those which have commended themselves most to the religious life of his nation; and while he may

1 be sure that within those forms the religious side of his own nature may find its satisfaction, he has leisure and composure to satisfy other sides of his nature as well.

But with the member of a Nonconforming or selfmade religious community, how different! The sectary's eigene grosse Erfindungen, as Goethe calls them,--the precious discoveries of himself and his friends for expressing the inexpressible and defining the undefinable in peculiar forms of their own, cannot but, as he has voluntarily chosen them, and is personally responsible for them, fill his whole mind. He is zealous to do battle for them and affirm them; for in affirming them he affirms himself, and that is what we all like. Other sides of his being are thur neglected, because the religious side, always tending in

every serious man to predominance over our other spiritual sides, is in him made quite absorbing and tyrannous by the condition of self-assertion and challenge which he has chosen for himself. And just what is not essential in religion he comes to mistake for essential, and a thousand times the more readily because he has chosen it of himself; and religious activity he fancies to consist in battling for it. All this leaves him little leisure or inclination for culture; to which, besides, he has no great institutions not of his own making, like the Universities

[ocr errors]

connected with the National Church to invite him, but only such institutions, as, like the order and discipline of his religion, he may have invented for himself, and invented under the sway of the narrow and tyrannous notions of religion fostered in him as we have seen. Thus, while a national establishment of religion favours totality, hole-and-corner forms of religion (to use an expressive popular word) inevitably favour provincialism.

But the Nonconformists, and many of our Liberal friends along with them, have a plausible plan for getting rid of this provincialism, if, as they can hardly quite deny, it exists. “Let us all be in the same boat,” they cry; "open the Universities to

' everybody, and let there be no establishment of religion at all ! ”

Open the Universities by all means; but, as to the second point about establishment, let us sift the proposal a little.

It does seem at first a little like that proposal of the fox, who had lost his own tail, to put all the other foxes in the same case by a general cutting off of tails; and we know that moralists have decided that the right course here was, not to adopt this plausible suggestion, and cut off tails all round, but rather that the other foxes should keep their tails, and that the fox without a tail should get one. And so we might be inclined to urge, that, to cure the evil of the Nonconformists' provincialism, the right way can hardly be to provincialise us all round.

However, perhaps we shail not be provincialised For Mr. White says that probably, “when all good

[ocr errors]

men alike are placed in a condition of religious equality, and the whole complicated iniquity of Government Church patronage is swept away, more of moral and ennobling influence than ever will be brought to bear upon the action of statesmen.”

We already have an example of religious equality in our colonies. “In the colonies," says The Times, , "we see religious communities unfettered by Statecontrol, and the State relieved from one of the most troublesome and irritating responsibilities.” But America is the great example alleged by those who are against establishments for religion. Our topic at this moment is the influence of religious establishments on culture; and it is remarkable that Mr. Bright, who has taken lately to representing himself as, above all, a promoter of reason and of the simple natural truth of things, and his policy as a fostering of the growth of intelligence,-just the aims, as is well known, of culture also,—Mr. Bright, in a speech at Birmingham about education, seized on the very point which seems to concern our topic, when he said : "I believe the people of the United States have offered to the world more valuable information during the last forty years, than all Europe put together.” So America, without religious establishments, seems to get ahead of us all, even in light and the things of the mind.

On the other hand, another friend of reason and the simple natural truth of things, M. Renan, says of America, in a book he has recently published, what seems to conflict violently with what Mr. Bright says

Mr. Bright avers that not only have the United States thus informed Europe, but they have done it without a great apparatus of higher and scientific instruction, and by dint of all classes in America being "sufficiently educated to be able to read, and to comprehend, and to think; and that, I maintain, is the foundation of all subsequent progress.” And then comes M. Renan, and says: “The sound instruction of the people is an effect of the high culture of certain classes. The countries which, like the United States, have created a considerable popular instruction without any serious higher instruction, will long have to expiate this fault by their intellectual mediocrity, their vulgarity of manners, their superficial spirit, their lack of general intelligence."1

Now, which of these two friends of light are we to believe? M. Renan seems more to have in view what we ourselves mean by culture; because Mr. Bright always has in his eye what he calls“ mendable interest" in politics and in political agita tions. As he said only the other day at Birmingham: "At this moment, in fact, I may say at every moment in the history of a free country,—there is nothing that is so much worth discussing as politics." And he keeps repeating, with all the powers of his noble oratory, the old story, how to the thoughtfulness and intelligence of the people of great towns we

1 "Les pays qui, comme les Etats-Unis, ont créé un enseigne. ment populaire considérable sans instruction supérieure sérieuse, expieront longtemps encore leur faute par leur médiocrité intel. lectuelle, leur grossièreté de mours, leur esprit superficiel, leur manque d'intelligence générale."

a com

[ocr errors]

owe all our improvements in the last thirty years, and how these improvements have hitherto consisted in Parliamentary reform, and free trade, and abolition of Church rates, and so on; and how they are now about to consist in getting rid of minority-members, and in introducing a free breakfast-table, and in abolishing the Irish Church by the power of the Nonconformists' antipathy to establishments, and much more of the same kind. And though our pauperism and ignorance, and all the questions which are called social, seem now to be forcing themselves upon his mind, yet he still goes on with his glorifying of the great towns, and the Liberals, and their operations for the last thirty years. It never seems to occur to him that the present troubled state of our social life has anything to do with the thirty years' blind worship of their nostrums by himself and our Liberal friends, or that it throws any doubts upon the sufficiency of this worship. But he thinks that what is still amiss is due to the stupidity of the Tories, and will be cured by the thoughtfulness and ntelligence of the great towns, and by the Liberals going on gloriously with their political operations as before; or that it will cure itself. So we see what Mr. Bright means by thoughtfulness and intelligence, and in what matter, according to him, we are to grow in them. And, no doubt, in America all classes read their newspaper, and take a commendable interest in politics, more than here or anywhere else in Europe.

But in the following essay we have been led to doubt the sufficiency of all this political operating,

« ZurückWeiter »