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The responsibility of teaching a whole country, cannot but be serious; and if it inhere in government, there must be a reasonable proof of its competency. But this it would be very difficult to establish. Are the regions of a court and a legislature impervious to prejudices and errors? What security can they furnish, that the education, which they would impress, is just and sound? What peculiar apocalypse of truth do they enjoy? What has purged their visual sense of every film ? It was when the National Convention of France actually debated the question of a national education, that Jacob Dupont “freely avowed that he was an atheist!” If each Power be competent, because responsible, all are in one category. But the Scotch and English Schools, —schools of one island, establishments of the same State, -inculcate contradictory doctrines. The governmental system differs in almost every land. Which is to be credited, and which to be refused ? If the responsibility be to teach that which is wrong, where fall the consequences of this responsibility? The people suffer now. Little can they know of eternal retribution, who boldly say that they will bear it for the people. The variance, then, of the systems, destroys the equal duty to propagate them, and the universal obligation to receive them.
It is not uncommon to veil this argument in figure. Thus is it depicted. A father is justified in impressing his religious sentiments on his children. The law of nature and of religion requires this of him. The king is the father of his people. Therefore he should not leave them without the religion he sincerely believes.— Strip off the veil, and the argument may easily be destroyed. The parent is necessarily older than the child; the religious parent, which the case supposes, is wiser and better than the child; and, withal, a natural relationship, which can have no parallel, involves a principle and right of authority which cannot but affect the child. And yet let that child arrive at a period of life to judge for himself, and he ought not to be charged with filial impiety, should he reverse the parental instructions. Apply the figure. Is the king older? How , many of his subjects exceed him in age! Is the king wiser? Sometimes, at least, even in this quality, he may be surpassed. An inspired king imagined the opposite case.* Is the king better? Honoured be the pious king, but we are not surprised that so many have “done evil in the sight of the Lord.” Only then is it a figurative style of speech, when the king is called the father of his people: it is not a strict relation, it is not a moral truth. He governs them, and they sustain him: they give him the system of rules by which only he can govern them: and it would be a much more analysed conception, a much stricter form of language, to say that the people are the father of the king, than that the king is the father of the people, -since he governs them by their choice and investiture, and receives from them his political power and existence.
It is not easy to be consistent. In the very interesting “Essay on the Profession of Personal Religious Conviction, by Professor A. Vinet, of Lausanne, may be found the following remarks:– “Although the theory of government which I have adopted does imply the rejection of the theory of paternal jurisdiction, at least, in the strictest sense of the terms, I cannot think of forbidding to governments the exercise of paternal feelings and paternal virtues. I cannot consider the enterprises and improvements of civilization as outrages on justice and liberty. I am now desirous most explicitly to state, that whatever may be my views as to the ideal perfection of a community, I regard all governments actively engaged in breaking the bread of knowledge to their subjects, not the enemies, but as the friends, of liberty.” Every reader must see incoherence and vacillation in these sentences. Some appear as truisms. If a government should act like a parent, not having the right to do so, the excellent author would approve! Why should it not as much give religion as education? What funds has it to accomplish this, but the revenues forced from the people? It is a most lame and impotent conclusion. It can only be explained by his fear of raising too great a controversy —the double question of Established Churches and Educational Impositions.
What, then, it may be asked, should a monarch do? We answer, what any other man ought to do; be himself religious, and preserve a domestic discipline of religion. Let him maintain a pious, holy, court. Let his example, and even his counsel, recommend religion to his subjects. But we have a precedent, and this we enforce. Would that all leaders and governors of nations might speak the language, and act upon the decision, of Joshua:– “If it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LOrd!”% It will be said, that the Church of the Country is the proper instructress of the people: that it is its direct design. On the question of civil incorporations of Christianity, we do not touch. It belongs not to our argument. The argument leaves it open. It binds neither side of the dispute. Then, regarding any indefeasible claim of such a church, apart from its political establishment, as only of itself,-we ask, How has it acquired the right to control the education of the people? Has the State, which has adopted it, given it the right? Then will come the question, Is it a right which the people may allow 2 Is it in agreement with their rights? A state conscience is a strange argument for infringing the consciences of millions. The diversity of churches will perplex the peasant and the boor. Such diversity annuls the boast itself. There is education, it is to be administered under an ecclesiastical jurisdiction, but what is that? It may be the Sorbonne of France, the Synod of Russia, the Inquisi
tion of Spain, the Diet of Rationalistic Germany, the Consistory of Socinian Geneva. These cannot all be the fitting mediums and the aptest instruments. Let every favourable exception be conceded to the English Church. Allow its doctrinal purity and tolerant spirit. It is plain, that if the people be so lamentably ill-educated, as is charged upon them, here falls the censure. If it was the duty of that church to direct the discipline of the rising race,—if it received “the nation's trust, the nurture of her youth, her dearest pledge,”—then has it most unfortunately, or most guiltily, failed in it. The Universities it inexorably shuts against all dissidents from its doctrine, though surely they stand not less in need of lore. We fear that we must charge it with neglect, if not malversation. From a table of the funds appropriated to educational purposes, according to the Report of the Commissioners appointed to enquire into them, M’Culloch deduces the following facts: -“It appears that, under the present defective and slovenly management, the income of endowed schools in these countries, exclusive of the sum appropriated for that purpose by the chartered companies of the metropolis, amounts to £180,309. But nine of the most opulent English counties, including Cheshire, Essex, Kent, and Lincoln, are omitted in the above abstract, not having been enquired into by the commissioners when it was published. Allowing for this deficiency, and supposing that the estates, and other property