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in every successive year as the world approaches to its end." Its prominence at the present time is mainly due to two causes; the gradual gravitation of the nations of Europe towards democracy, and the concurrent growth throughout Christendom of a spirit of scepticism and unbelief. The latter movement is essentially antagonistic to Established Churches —for opposition to the connection of religion with the State is natural in men who hold opinions subversive of the very existence of religion. But apart from the attacks of infidelity, the continued existence of civil establishments of Christianity is menaced by the transformation of the political institutions with which they are associated. When a Church is connected with a State, the terms of the connection must be affected by every change in the Constitution either of the Church or of the State; and it is conceivable that the condition of the latter may undergo such modifications as may render undesirable, or even impossible, a union which had previously proved an advantage to both. It is therefore no matter of surprise that in this country, at the present time, looking at the alterations which have already taken place in the administration of our civil affairs since our Church was united to the State, and the further alterations which may take place, men are asking themselves, more than they have ever hitherto done, whether the Establishment of that Church ought any longer to be upheld? One branch has been doomed; on what grounds is the other to be maintained? What are the advantages of the union between the Church and the State, and what evils would result from its dissolution?
It is with the view of supplying an answer to questions such as these that Mr. Birks has in his later work republished, with considerable alterations and additions, the thoughts many years ago embodied by him in the volume the title of which we have placed first at the head of this article, and which has been long out of print. The views of Mr. Birks on the subject carry with them the more weight from the fact that, as he tells us in the preface to his recent treatise, he once held opinions the very opposite to those which he has advocated in this and in the earlier work.
The question of the connection of the Church with the State may be treated under two different aspects. We may consider it mainly in reference either to its abstract truth, or to its practical utility. The true and the really useful are, indeed, so inseparably intermingled and bound up with each other, that it is impossible wholly to dissociate them even for the purpose of discussion; but the line of argument will be widely different according as we adopt the first or the second of the methods we have indicated. In the one case it will turn upon duty, in
the other upou expediency. But inasmuch as the path of duty is ever the path of true expediency, we msiy be sure that, if correctly pursued, the investigations will both lead to the same result. They will concur either in approving or in condemning the principle of Establishments. And thus, in the discussion of this subject, as in that of many others, the two lines of reasoning are useful as checks upon each other; since, if they apparently guide us to opposite conclusions, we may be certain of the existence of a flaw in either one or the other.
The arguments in Mr. Birks' recent book (for it is to a review of this that we shall confine ourselves in the present article) are founded upon the very highest considerations of duty. In the loftiness of the principles to which they appeal, they remind us of Mr. Gladstone's reasoning in his work on "The State in its relations with the Church." But while Mr. Gladstone relied for his position on the idea of personality and conscience in the State—an idea which, notwithstanding his powerful arguments in its support, is, we maintain, no less a fiction than the theory of the alliance between Church and State which he condemned for its unreality—Mr. Birks deduces his conclusions from the religious obligations which lie upon statesmen and rulers equally with ordinary citizens in their individual capacity, or rather, as we might perhaps better put it, upon all individuals, from the poorest elector to the king on his throne, in their political no less than their private character. Reason, we think, points to this latter as the more true, while experience has shown it to be the safer basis. A reference to the " Chapter of Autobiography" will disclose to us the manner in which Mr. Gladstone has had, or fancies he has had, the ground taken away from under his feet on the subject of Church and State, by the political events which have happened since the latest edition of his work. But Mr. Birks' principles will hold good so long as Christian men have any authority in the legislature, and have power to direct its acts to the advancement of true religion.
Proceeding as they do upon the assumption of the paramount claims of the Christian religion, Mr. Birks' arguments are of course addressed only to men who do not dispute those claims. The function of the book is thus somewhat confined, but it is far from being on that account uncalled for. There are, alas! in the present day, many who, while they would not deny that religion ought to be the groundwork of private and social life, at the same time openly avow their opinion that it should be wholly excluded from the field of public and political life. If all who admit the peculiar duties imposed by Christianity on individual persons, recognised similar obligations as binding upon communities at large, there would be little fear that the efforts of the openly irreligious and infidel, unsupported by assistance from men professedly religious and God-fearing, would succeed in overthrowing the civil establishment of Christianity, or in effecting that outward severance between religion and politics, to which the course of public events appears to be now fast tending.
Mr. Birks has divided his treatment of the subject into two parts, in the first of which he discusses the question of National Religion, and in the second, that of Church Establishments. The first of these questions is in every way the more important. It is upon the principle of a National Religion that the opponents of an Established Church always join issue with its defenders; for when that principle is affirmed, the establishment either of one Church or of several Churches follows as a natural corollary, from the peculiar constitution of that religion, of which both parties, for the most part, admit the general truth.
The main drift of Mr. Birks' reasoning, so far as it aims at the establishment of positive conclusions, and is not directed to the refutation of objections which might be urged against his theory, may be gathered from the seven propositions stated at the commencement of his first chapter, as containing, in his opinion, the maxims on which the duty of National Religion is based in its true and Scriptural idea. The propositions are as follows:—
"1. All kings, princes, and civil rulers, to whom the Gospel of Christ has been made known, are bound to embrace it with their whole heart, and to submit themselves, with all their royal or princely power, to the supreme authority of the Son of God. They are bound to rule in the fear of God, to avow their allegiance to Christ, and to do all things to the glory of their Lord and Master in heaven.
"2. They ought, therefore, to base their laws on the revealed laws of God, to execute them with a direct appeal to His authority, to own themselves His servants, and to honour Him with acts of public worship, in prayer, praise, adoration, and thanksgiving.
"3. Their duty, as God's ministers for the good of the people, has a wider range than the security of life and property by armed force, or the fear of punishment. They are bound to honour moral excellence above worldly riches, to care for the wants of the soul more than those of the body, and to seek that truth and justice, religion and piety, may be established among their people to all generations.
"4. The visible Church is ordained by Christ for the spread of Divine truth, that families, states, and kingdoms may be made obedient to His gospel, and learn and do His will. Christian rulers, then, are bound not only to become its members, but to promote its labours of love, and to give it every help in their power for its growth and increase.
"5. Rulers are bound, therefore, in their laws, to recognise the
visible Church of Christ in its corporate existence, ite social worth, and divine calling; to encourage, and also regulate, the offerings of its members; to help its efforts for the instruction of all Christian people, and to honour its doctrines and laws in the whole constitution of the State.
"6. When the Church has been rent with schisms, and corrupted by false doctrines and immoral practices, other duties will devolve on Christian rulers. Their office requires them to discern between saving truth and dangerous error, to resist sectarian bigotry and unbelieving indifference, to honour every part of the Church in proportion to its religious soundness and power of confirming social benefit, to repress grosser evils, and encourage all things pure, lovely, and of good report.
"7. These duties of the Christian ruler are confirmed by the testimony of Scripture, and are in full harmony with the true rights of conscience and the precepts and lessons of the Gospel. But while it is the duty of every Christian to aim at this high standard in every act of political life, its full attainment is reserved for the promised time of the restitution of all things, when the earth shall be full of the glory of the Lord."
If these propositions be true, and contain the correct idea of the duties of a ruler, how lamentably does the fact fall short of the standard! This must be our first thought on reading the passage which we have just extracted, and the impression, so far from being dispelled, is rather strengthened as we proceed iu our perusal of the volume, and observe the manner in which Mr. Birks works out the propositions he has laid down, and the interpretation which he puts upon them. Not only is the view of government here inculcated widely different from—we had almost said diametrically opposed to—the prevalent modern notions upon the subject; but even were it otherwise, we cannot help feeling that, in our present state of failure and imperfection, every attempt to realize the sketch presented to us would fall so far short of that full attainment to it, which Mr. Birks himself admits to be reserved for a future period, that we are almost disposed to question the practical wisdom of erecting so high a standard, and to think that, in laying down a theory of government, it would be better to construct one more evidently feasible, and therefore more likely to be accepted as a model. But the impossibility of perfect attainment to the standard propounded is no valid ground of objection to the standard itself. What should we think of a similar cavil launched, as it might well be, against the scheme of Christian morality? We entirely dissent from the proposition laid dowu in a receut work by one of the great thinkers of the day, that "laws and institutions require to be adapted, uot to good men, but to bad." No doubt the enactment of certain prohibitory and penal laws, which shall affect bad men alone, is rendered
necessary by their presence in our midst; but a little reflection will convince us that, when applied to the general laws which regulate communities, and to their social and political institutions, (one of the most important of which—that of marriage— was the immediate object of the remark,) the doctrine is as untenable in theory as it would be intolerable in practice. No; institutions must be founded on the principle embodied in the maxim of our common law—" Omnia prasumuntivr rite esse acta: All things are presumed to be done aright." And a standard, whether in politics or ethics or anything else, must, to be worth anything, either be perfection itself, or be so near to it as to be practically unattainable; for if it be short of perfection, and be attainable by human endeavour, we have no reason to suppose that, if it had been placed higher, that higher point might not have been reached also, in which case the existence of the lower standard was absolutely a hindrance to improvement. If, then, these propositions of Mr. Birks are intrinsically true, the loftiness of the standard which they erect, so far from being an objection to them, is precisely the contrary.
Let us proceed, then, to a candid examination of them; and first let us see how much of them will be granted by those opponents who, as we have before observed, can alone meet Mr. Birks on common ground in the line of discussion which he has adopted. To the first proposition they must yield their unreserved assent. It merely states, with reference to individuals who happen to be rulers, those duties which they, no less than Mr. Birks, recognize as common to all members of the human race. The second proposition they would, we conceive, also admit, but with less readiness, and not without some explanations and qualifications. But on proceeding to the third, they would probably declare that they were here diametrically and irreconcileably opposed to Mr. Birks. So far from conceding that it is the duty of rulers to care for the spiritual more than the temporal wants of their subjects, they will altogether deny that rulers have any function in respect of the former: it is the province of civil government, some of them will say, to provide for the security of the persons and property of the governed; while others, while they will go a step further, and will extend the care of rulers to all the temporal interests of their subjects, mental and moral, as well as material, will expressly limit that care to things of time, to the exclusion of all matters of higher import. We confess that we have ever been unable, ourselves, to see the grounds for these limitations. They have always appeared to us to be alike theoretically false, and practically impossible. Theoretically false; for we hold the object of government to be the happiness of