« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
those still more sacred. So they reason. Thus they would quell our fears. But we must be suffered to avow most opposite conclusions.
It is an anomaly, which thrusts itself upon the consideration of mankind, that the same people may not be equally impressed with the value of civil and of religious liberty. An indifferent observer, a superficial thinker, might have supposed that these could not be disjoined. Shall the patriot stand forth to brand some "raiser of taxes," some innovator on the laws of the commonwealth touching property and exchange, and leave in his dark recess the tyrant of the soul? It is most possible that the less outrage shall be resented, and that the greater shall be made a boast. When South America threw off the Spanish Yoke,— when her republics seemed to glow with the spirit of the purest freedom,—when the wrongs of Montezuma were promised their just redress,—intolerance was made the exception, and all liberty of religious opinion was denied. In Spain herself there rose a patriot band, generous, resolved, fierce as her torrents, entrenched as her hills, but the Bible must be excluded and the gospel suppressed. The priest retained his power, and superstition upheld its reign. Wherever there is the struggle for constitutional independence throughout present Europe, little of the claims of enlightened conscience is enforced. Men are in earnest about all besides. Against imposts, restrictions, imprisonments, mulcts, loudly will they plead. Jealously they watch every encroachment, firmly they repel every attack. The clank of chains jars their inward sense. All the bonds of slavery they indig- . nantly denounce. But an Inquisition, and its familiars, they can pass without disgust. They can abandon man to spiritual despotism. The Barons of Runnymede extorted no charter, struck no blow, for private judgment and individual faith. The hardy, selfarmed, peasantry of Helvetia and ^Tyrol asked but the liberty, defended but the right, to roam their mountain-sides, and delivered up their soul to the most fanatical debasement. Now why is it, that two blessings, so congenial, so mutually consequential, so naturally one, should be thus divided? How is it that they who esteem, and contend to blood for, the one, should neglect, and even betray, the other? Moral causes may be assigned. Man, though responsible to God, feels it not as he does his connection with man. The present is more engrossing than the future. Earth is attractive as is no after-state of being. The men who will otherwise debate all propositions, all testimonies, all terms, will simply acquiesce in religious dogma. They do not think concerning it at all. They will give themselves no trouble about it. It lies out of their accustomed studies. It may, or may not, be true. They somewhat value it for the sake of others. It has a beneficial influence over certain orders of society. It checks and awes. How is it that these thinkers on
every thing else, never think on this? How is it that they can submit to the decisions of others in this department of enquiry alone? Is it not the most personally interesting and momentous of all questions which can arise? How is it that the friends of general liberty so enormously stumble here? Lightly they speak of the religious capacities and claims of the poor. In our senate every voice of freedom utters its burning periods and finds its ready champions: but when "the things which belong unto God" are noted, and when every man's rights, in respect of those things, are urged, what syncope is there of ordinary intelligence, what eclipse of common sense! Why should not all be moulded to one religion? What have the poor to do but to follow their appointed guides ?—We cannot trust,—we are driven to the avowal,—we cannot trust the best friends, the best informed, the best tried, advocates, of civil liberty, with our religious interests. We grieve, we blush, to declare that we see in civil liberty but a most imperfect security for the rights of conscience. But the converse is as historically, as it is gloriously, true. Religious liberty has always won, as its accompaniment, civil freedom. The reason is in Christian motive. Luther, Zuinglius, and Knox, were true and holy men. They loved the good of their species. They grasped the greater benefit, and secured the less. And, therefore, are we alarmed, because all record and all experience prove, that patriots and deliverers may content themselves with striking off the body's iron, and yet perpetuate the spirit's bondage. We cannot trust these men. They have not learnt that "the redemption of the soul is precious." Their aspirations are not those of conscience struggling to be free. We will unfurl a banner,—beneath it the defence of every mortal concernment is safe,— which has other mottoes than those of policy, whose mighty field is emblazoned with other enrichments than those of war, whose foldings are stirred with other impulses than those of present passion and conflict, which streams towards heaven!
If we be accused of stupidity in not discerning that it is the right and duty of the State to educate the people; if we be charged with propounding, in the contrary view, a new doctrine; may we not retort? How long has it been understood? The Parliamentary Commissioners, of 1838, upon the condition of education in this country, thus report the result of their labours: "They are convinced that, however inadequate the present system of instruction for the humbler classes may be, in many districts, it is owing almost entirely to the laudable and persevering efforts throughout the country, of benevolent individuals, that any thing at all worthy the name of education has been afforded to the children of the working classes in the large towns." "Until very recently, the subject appears to have entirely escaped the attention of government." "On this matter, important as it is to the welfare of all classes, there seem to exist no sources of information in any department of government." Sudden, then, is the outburst of light which has come upon our jurists, statists, and legislators! Philanthropists and Christians for so long a time have intruded upon their province! "They are the men, and wisdom shall die with them!" But there is another tribunal. These senators and statesmen are but the functionaries of the nation. The solemn appeal has been made to it: Velitis, Jubeatis, Quirites? And if the answer of Britain be not sufficiently emphatic, for ever to debar such encroachments, for ever to warn such intermeddlers, its rulers must be seized with utter infatuation, no wise to be accounted for but by the judgment of Him "that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish."
When honest conviction is entertained, its honesty must be proved by its consistent support and perseverance. Now it is not denied that national education is a very favourite project with many. They only of late may have dwelt upon it. Still later has it been that they have understood its difficulty. But, from time immemorial, education has been benevolently, that is, voluntarily, applied. In this is ho novelty. We find in this fact a well-proved principle. From it, with the experience of ages upon it, we are not inclined to swerve. It is not that which can coexist with any compulsory scheme. It fades and