Page images
PDF
EPUB

and State alike, for enormous and urgent mischief; and no enlightened friend of evangelical truth has any conceivable interest in defending it.

We who maintain, on Seriptural grounds, the Establishment principle, respecting the Magistrate's duty towards the truth and the Church of Christ, may differ a little among ourselves as to the propriety of a direct assault upon the Established Churches, and as to the time and manner of any movement against them. Anything approaching to revolutionary violence, or what might tend to unsettle the constitution of the country, all of us would deplore; and many may consider it unwise so to commit themselves to an active and aggressive system of opposition, as to peril upon that issue the cause of Protestantism, and render the general co-operation of good men impossible. At the same time, disapproving, as we do, of these Establishments, we cannot but admit the desirableness of their peaceful and orderly removal; we must steadily resist all attempts to extend them; and in so far as their continuance affords a plea, or a pretence, for the endowment of error, we must loudly and emphatically proclaim that we hold their entire and swift destruction to be, if an evil at all, incomparably the least evil of the two. Nor is it to be overlooked, as an object to be aimed at, that it may be quite practicable to reconcile the minds, even of the supporters of these Establishments themselves, or at least of those among them who hold enlightened and evangelical views, to the withdrawal of endowments from all the State Churches; and to satisfy them, that it is a measure by no means so alarming as they are apt to suppose ; which may be carried without any such dreadful national convulsion as they would deprecate; and which, if carried, would, after all, affect much less than they think, the godly portion of these Churches, either in their personal influence, or in their means and advantages for preaching the Gospel.

We have dwelt thus long upon this topic, not because we look upon it as the only, or even in all circumstances, the chief and primary topic to which the attention of religious electors and religious candidates is to be devoted, but because it is the topic most apt to create embarrassment.

II. Let us now much more briefly state what occurs to us as to the principles on which Christian voters ought to act, and ought to require their representatives to act, in the present momentous crisis.

We do not wish to press any ultra or excessive view. We do not say, for example, that electors ought to vote for a particular candidate, merely on account of his personal religion, and irrespective of his political opinions; neither do we say that they ought always to refuse their support to a candidate who is prepared to advocate public measures that they approve of, because they have objections to his private character. We woul, avoid all extremes.

At the same time we can conceive of nothing more painful to a conscientious elector than to feel himself in either strait. To be constrained, by a sense of public duty, to vote against a man who fears God, must be very grievous : and still more, to be shut up to the necessity of supporting one who has no fear of God before his eyes. In this last case however godly voters may reckon on their ungodly representative for helping forward certain specific measures, or opposing others they cannot believe that the general interests of the empire are safe in his hands, or that the Divine blessing can rest on a Legislature composed of such men. A Christian patriot, in so sore a perplexity, will be strongly tempted to abstain altogether from taking a part in returning a member to Parliament at all; leaying " the dead to bury their dead;" and absolving himself from responsibility by protesting, that as he sees nothing but sin either

way, he must stand still and let the Lord work by what instruments He pleaseth.

But neutrality may not always be possible or right; nay, as matters now stand, it can scárcely fail very frequently to be sin. "With a view, then, to their being able, with a clear conscience, to exercise their high funetion for their coun. try's good, it is clearly a Christian duty incumbent on Christian men, in all their constituencies, to look out beforehand for religious candidates, and to give them a warm preference when they come before them. This they must do, if they would not incur heavy guilt. For their electoral franchise is a talent, for the use of which they are responsible to their heavenly Master; and it cannot but be most offensive to Him when they use it, under whatever colour, in favour of one who is His

enemy. And even if electors are to look rather to the public opinions of a candidate, -than to his private character, we would again remind them that the questions now likely to be agitated in Parliament are really religious questions; and they can put no faith in any but religious men, when such questions come across the path. By all means make sure—we would say to them—that your members hold sound views, according to your judgment, on all questions of trade, commerce, and finance ; and that their general notions of government are sufficiently Liberal or Conservative for your taste. This, now, will be comparatively easy; for no great principles now divide public men. Free trade is carried; and what remains, so far as civil government or political economy is concerned, must be chiefly matter of detail. Evidently, in all these affairs, all parties are bent upon a practical adjustment, rather than a prolonged discussion, of their differences.

But, on the other hand, let it be observed how much the really great questions yet outstanding are all mixed up with religious considerations, such as religious men alone can adequately estimate. Mere secular politicians are at sea. Their expedients are exhausted. The next move in Ireland—the only remaining grand stroke of policy-is the endowment of the Church of Rome; and in the country generally, some educational scheme, that shall embrace the extremes of popish superstition and infidel latitudinarianism, with so much of the religious aspect as to avoid, if possible, offence to the churches, and yet not irritate any prejudice, or inflame any passion, of the ungodly world.

Take, also, any of the questions now rising in different parts of the empire, respecting the entail laws, the game laws, the poor laws. Is there one of these that religious men would not wish to see handled in the spirit, not only of worldly wisdom, but of large religious sagacity? And will they trust statesmen, of any party, who have no religious character or profession, with the determination of the questions connected with the progress of Popery and Jesuitism, and the national support which it is proposed now to give to these dangerous and deadly delusions?

Are religious men, of sound sense and statesmanship, not to be got as candidates for seats in Parliament? We say : Call for them, and see if they will not come. Ask God for them, and see if He will not send them. Be prepared to welcome them, and back them to the uttermost, and see if they will not take courage and declare themselves.

They need not all be men of high birth, or great wealth, or transcendant eloquence. They may be men of plain and homely wisdom ;-quiet men, and lovers of home ;---who shrink from the turmoil of public life. Not finding themselves at home on the arena of parliamentary or electioneering contests, where too often the worldly and the wicked seem to be preferred, and the godly are regarded as intruders,—such men are content now to remain in congenial retirement, and to leave the field to ruder spirits. But let them know that they are wanted, and that they will be valued ; and they will soon be forthcoming. At present they feel that, when they volunteer themselves, their Christian character not only is an objection with a certain class, but is really, to say the least, no recommendation in the view of others, from whom better things might be expected; and hence religious men do not feel themselves constrained to stand the risk of an election. But let it once be known that they are to have a preference, and that they are in demand and many will be found ready to sacrifice their ease and privacy to the call of public duty.

We have very imperfectly conveyed to our readers our impression of the magnitude of the present crisis, and of their responsibility in regard to it; but what is wanting in our representation their own serious thought will supply. We do entreat them to consider this whole subject, in the light of Scripture, and in the spirit of prayer. It is impossible to reckon on things going on much longer as they are going on now; and it is by no means improbable that the very next Parliament will have questions to decide that may fix the fate of Britain, when the Lord comes to judge the nations. It is most certain, that the giving of public countenance and support to Popery will be an immediate subject of contention. And whatever a false and spurious Liberalism may think, no religious man can look on such a proposal without the utmost alarm. Nor is the risk slight. It will require all the combined exertions of all the evangelical Protestants in the land to stem the tide that is now setting in. And what political question is at present worth the naming, in comparison with this? What party interest is to be thought of, for a moment, when such a danger is impending ? Let the spirit of infatuation, that seems to be blinding the eyes and laying asleep the hearts of God's own people, be dispelled. Men are dreaming of security, as if these were ordinary times, and as if this were an ordinary struggle. Let them feel that it is God's cause that is at stake, and that not a moment is to be lost. We may yet have a leaven of good in the Legislature of Great Britain, that may work so as to bring back the nation to God. May God grant it, and, with a view to it, may He enable his people to be faithful!

These remarks Iare made, and this appeal is put forth, with a view to reach the consciences and hearts of the truly religious portion of the community. We long to see their public spirit roused. We believe that the present is a special and signal opportunity—that it is most precarious—and that it may be the last. The throne of public opinion, so far as political matters are concerned, is vacant. No trumpet is giving a certain sound; and of the armies of secular politicians, none are preparing themselves for the battle.

-a lull; most precious, but most ominous. Men are staggered and taken aback. On all sides the field is clear for some new and stirring cry to marshal the disordered ranks. Were any lion-like or Lutherlike note to be sounded, would it be in vain? Satan is evidently waiting, or “ biding his time.” He is working busily his master-piece of mechanism the agency of Rome; and he is ready in these days of light, as well as in the darkest ages,

to

occupy the world. A few years, or even months, and it may bo too late for Christians to interfere. But at present, if they knew it, they have the advantage. In the indecision of all secular politics at this moment, a decided evangelical movement would be almost sure, under God, to tell.

There is a pause-

THE POPE AND THE ITALIAN QUESTION.

The peo

We deliberately unite these two litical character of the actual movement things in the title of these few pages, in the Roman States, though true of the because, at the present day, it is the present, is by no means applicable to the Italian question that gives importance future. Far fromit. Thanks to the temto the tendencies, true or imaginary, of poral sovereignty of the Pope, the poliPius IX. The Pope, whatever be tical question and the religious have done, is judged. He totters upon a too many points of contact in Italy for basis that is unsound. He sits en- any political change in that country, throned upon an error, on a phantom not sooner or later, to acquire a reliof authority, which may still from a gious bearing. Only, when the time distance deceive some dim-sighted in- shail come, the movement will not be dividuals, but which, when closely ex- for, but against the existing constituamined, betrays the colourless fixity of tion of the Roman Church. death. The dreams of the Abbe Gio- ple is no great hand at casuistical disberti and his neo-Guelph followers tinctions. The Italian people cannot will not help him far; they confess discover that the political and civil death, who speak of resuscitation; and laws of the papacy are bad, without when, to render that resuscitation pos- learning to doubt its spiritual infallisible, they feel it needful to evoke some- bility: they will not be able to apply thing bearing the features of Gregory their freedom of will and enquiry to VIL., they condemn themselves, in everything connected with their moral, pure wantonness, to the romantic. It intellectual and material life, and, as is then the king whose cause is now Calderon did with Aristotle's poetics pleading. It is the temporal sove- when writing his dramas, lock it up reign, or rather it is the Italian ques. under seven keys as soon as their retion influencing him, and liable in its ligious life is in question. Men thirst turn to be influenced by him, that ex- for unity in everything. A political eites. the joys, the terrors, the some- change, then, cannot take in Italy, what exaggerated hopes and conjec- without bringing about as a consetures, with which the first steps of quence, a great religious reform; and Pius IX. have been hailed.

That en- this we think is too much forgotten at thusiastic applause which fills the Ro- present in Protestant countries. The man States, is repeated by the rest of neo-Guelphs unreasonably flatter themItaly, and finds an echo in foreign selves that, by exhibiting the king in lands, is not an outburst of a catholic the character of a reformer, they shall faith ; it is an explosion of the spirit be able to preserve to the Pope his inof liberty which agitates the Peninsula; violability; the men of the national the revelation of a frighful state ; a party, who are, we have reason to protest against the powers that hold think, nothing else than Roman Cathomutilated and fettered, without air and lics, seek to urge him on in that path ; movement, that fine country, peopled they know well that emancipation, by a quick impulsive race, full of ori- begin from whence it may, can stop ginal energy, whom so many memoirs only when it is complete. of greatness, so many appeals to a Now, is there any probability that better future, surround. Those are Pius IX. will become a political restrangely deceived who see anything former? How far will he, or can he, else in what is now passing in central respond to the wishes of Italy? Italy. It is only a peaceful political And, first, for the facts. Pius IX. movement, and it is from that point of has published an amnesty for political view that we must endeavour to ex- prisoners and exiles ; he has permitted amine it.

railroads to be undertaken ; he has This is so much the more necessary, as

allowed his subjects to be present what we have said of the exclusively po- at the scientific congresses, annually

held in Italy; he has united some con- souls at the frontier. This is killing vents, which contained no more than the idea to pardon the corpse ; or, and six or seven monks a-piece; he has or- we fear there will be too many exdered better bread to be furnished to amples, it is offering a premium for the soldiers ; he has distributed alms; perjury : it is substituting—and this he has organized a school; he has put is the custom of the Roman Church in four additional books to the Index.* every thing—the dead letter for the These are pretty well all his acts up to life, an arid and dangerous formula the present moment; the rest—the se- for the sacred mystery of reconciliation cularisation of offices, disbanding of by mercy and love. As if all that the Swiss, formation of communes, &c., were not enough, we now know that are as yet but conjectures and hopes. other restrictions, mere violations of

Of all these acts the amnesty is the the act, are put in force. Twenty-five most important, and that which gave exiles of Rimini have been rejected : rise to the explosion of enthusiasm, during the insurrectionary struggle of which we have heard the details, in they had fired on the Pope's genevery town of the Roman States, and darmes. to a unanimous concert of praise in We are not open to the suspicion of foreign countries. It opened the dun- advocating the use of physical force ; geons of we know not how many pri- but, once accepting the state of things soners—it consoled many families—it -a state of things, it must not be forperhaps saved two or three heads from gotten, in which brute force prevents the scaffold. We must therefore re- every pacific demonstration-what sigjoice at it. And yet how many remarks nifies a pardon granted to the insurmay be made on that act, of which not gents, if it is not extended to those one has yet found a voice in our perio- who endeavoured to support the insurdical press, severe and analytical as it rection by force? And would it not have is! There is scarcely a sovereign who, been more honest to write:

we parat his accession, has not published an don only those who approved of the inamnesty. Gregory XVI. published surrection without acting ?”!

Charles Albert, Ferdinand of Such is the act which has caused Austria, also published amnesties. Pius IX. to be hailed in Italy and in And that of Pius IX. is neither the foreign lands as a regenerating Pope, most comprehensive, nor the most the beginner of a new era. moral. We will not dwell upon the For foreign lands there is but one exclusion of ecclesiastics, of military explanation : the carelessness with men, of government employés ; com- which men habitually look on all that pared to the whole number, they are passes abroad. But what reflections but few. But we cannot refrain from crowd upon us when we think of Italy! pointing out to our readers a clause, How many tears shed through long which, in our eyes, cancels almost all years are betrayed under each of these the merit of the act. Every man who praises ? How many sufferings accudesires to profit by the pardon of the mulated on the head of this people, Holy Father, must sign a declaration whom a breath of kindness intoxicates abjuring the past, and pledging him with joy and hope! And what a conself for the future. By this the Pope tradiction given to those who assured excludes the most deserving, the men of us the liberal agitation was but the deep convictions; he brands the others; work of a few isolated factious men, he debars the cause of Italian nationali. without an echo in the heart of the ty-dream or not, is of no consequence nation ! At this onerous, imperfect to a school-boy revolt, without prin- amnesty, bestowed on the liberal party, ciple, without object : he says to the at a few vague promises, a few indivibody walk in, provided you leave your dual acts of Pius IX. showing popular

one.

* Two of the Four are French and an Italian translation of the Gospels, with notes by M. Lamen

« PreviousContinue »