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coercive processes, which could not but tend to diminish their acceptableness, and to render suspected the motives in which they originated.
Art. V. Christianity Consistent with the Love of Freedom. By the
Rev. ROBERT HALL, A.M.
EVERY little urchin in the country knows what a scarecrow
is, and, albeit he may never have heard of genus, and species, and so forth, knows full well that of this said scarecrow there are different kinds. A string with a few feathers tied to it answers his purpose, and frightens the sparrows from the tiny plot of garden which he calls his own; but there's Master Johnson, the farmer, he must have something on a larger scale when his fields are white unto the harvest ; there must be a man of straw set up, with outspread arms and a shocking bad hat on, which the village boys, by the bye, are plotting to secure for their next bonfire day. Oh, if one might but make this a chapter on scarecrows, what an extent we might range over; for be it known, gentle reader, that we have found some species or other of this genus, scarecrow, set up wherever there was any thing worth obtaining, and have often seen men forsooth, at least bipeds so calling themselves, as much terrified at what you may term, if you like, a moral scarecrow, as ever a poor cocke sparrow was at a string of feathers tied across a schoolboy's radish-bed. Well, as we said, there are things of this kind to be met with every where, but of course variously constructed according to the class they are intended to frighten. Different classes must be differently managed, but the raw head and bloody bones, that used to silence the child in the nursery, is only exchanged for something else as much like it as may be when the child becomes of a larger growth : there is always some mysterious fe-fa-fum that announces the approach of the grim
giant, and the scene of the nursery is repeated in the world. Thus there are mercantile scarecrows, and scarecrows political, and even scientific, but one would not care so much if it were not that there are religious scarecrows too. We can all remember, before the Catholics were admitted to their rights as citizens, how the pastures of St. Stephen's were guarded by a no-popery figure, horribile visu, clothed with a garment dipped in blood; very terrible truly was the same, and it did famously for a time. Besides this there was the Church-in-danger thing, which many still keep far away from, though as we have seen some birds, more naughty than the rest,
venture to explore the object of their dread, and then absolutely to perch thereon, and plume their feathers, and look quite saucy ; so this ecclesiastical scarecrow is coming to be treated with little ceremony. But still, to this day, merchants and politicians of every party, and churchmen, and all other men, are often frightened out of their wits, and what is worse, frightened away from something that is good, from the finest fruit and the ripest grain, by a mere string of feathers or a man of straw. And thus is it with the Dissenter too, alas for him! but he will learn wisdom, (and well for him if he has not to buy it first,) and will treat the object of his dread as the frogs in the fable did King Log. What then did these same frogs? Why at first they were all reverence to be sure, as frogs should be, and kept at an awful distance, but at length some bolder than the rest ventured nearer and nearer, and round and round, till at last they leaped on the object of their former fear and—but no matter.
But what in the world can scare the Dissenters of England, the sons of the stout hearted puritans? one would have thought that, like young Nelson, they would not have known what fear was. We shall see that e'en their failing leans on virtue's side. To their credit be it said, that whatever only seems to deteriorate and injure religion makes them pause in their career : they can forego their right then : they are bold besiegers, but if, while they attack the stronghold of corruption, their enemies hold up as if to receive and intercept the blows the sacred form of religion, their weapons fall from their hand, and they prostrate themselves in lowliest homage, not to their foes, before whom they never quail, but to the adored object of their affection. This trait in their character is the proper key to the right understanding of that silly phrase which, invented by their enemies, is, strange to say, adopted by some amongst themselves. The fact is this, their wily adversaries, political and ecclesiastical, lay and clerical, seeing that the Dissenters, whom they choose to regard as ill-omened birds, could by their numbers peck up every tithe-sheaf in the country if so they were minded, stuck up, to guard the preserves of Toryism and Church, one of the queerest things ever seen-but it answered the purpose amazingly well in some quarters. It was a figure of one who had lost every trace of piety, and had brought disgrace upon religion and odium on Dissent, and, teneatis risum ? they called it a political Dissenter, forsooth, and with much chatter and gabbling, set it up to frighten all the Dissenters out of their propriety. And a capital plan it was, quite a new thing, and a manifest improvement on all former scarecrows; the inventor deserved a patent. Now Churchmen chuckled and Tories triumphed, for corruption found a Palladium, since so long as this effigy should continue their Troy would be impregnable. But when it was found to be to a certain degree successful, it was
quite piteous to hear the moanings of many, for now the dealers in negro flesh sighed sadly that this bonny invention came too late for them; oh, that it had come earlier ! then might the delights of the middle passage have lasted, and a fine traffic have continued in the blood and bones of men; still might the woods of Trelawney have echoed with Jamaica's long wonted music—the crack of the whip and the wild shriek of the lacerated slave. But alas ! this bugbear had no existence then, and Christians, and especially Dissenting Christians, believed in their simplicity, that every political influence might not only allowably but righteously and nobly be employed on behalf of suffering humanity. Their piety, their holy benevolence, did not scorn political instrumentality as a weapon unworthy of their sainted head; on the contrary, they took it into the closet when they communed with God, and having laid it upon the altar which sanctifieth both the giver and the gift, it became a consecrated weapon mighty through God. With them politics lost its earthliness, being not tinged but impregnated with piety : their political strength acquired its intensity in the chamber of devotion where their weakness allied itself to the Divine greatness.
Talk to us of piety, why the more these men drank into the spirit of their Lord the more did they clothe themselves with zeal as with a cloke, the more strenuous did they become in their determination and their efforts to break off every yoke, and to let the oppressed go free. Alas! why were they so political ? why did they not stand aloof from the noisy din, and leave the men of this world to enslave, and manacle, and scourge as they would ? and why were they not content to leave to those who neither feared God nor regarded man, the settlement of these matters, the doing justice and loving mercy, since Christians should not meddle with politics.
But we are getting serious; and reason is that we should, for the evil on which we have undertaken to animadvert is of too serious a nature to be lightly touched ; and the fact that in so many quarters there is reiterated, usque ad nauseam, the same silly denouncement against Christians interfering with politics, may well make serious any one who desires that religious men should stand forth to the world in all that noble manliness of character which Christianity inspires, and who knows full well that your emasculated pigmies only bring contempt on that religion which furnishes them with an excuse for their feebleness and their littleness : it may well make serious any one who, looking but a very little onward, sees not only its absurdity in theory, but its mischief in practice.
Save me from my friends, is a common saying, often full of pith, but never more pregnant with meaning than when used in reference to Christianity. If religion require, or even render desirable, that we should abjure our rights as citizens, that we
should as to our civil relationship live in a state of single blessedness, of political celibacy,--if Christianity constrains us to a political suicide,—then is there an a priori argument, and no mean one, against the truth of that system which would produce effects so withering. For there are certain things existent, and facts ascertained, and relationships discovered, as intended by the Author of all things, prior to revelation : of this kind may be specified the connexion between children and their parents with the mutual duties thence resulting, also the nature of civil society and government, which revelation does not first teach. Every man stands in a certain relation to the state of which he is a member, and is bound to seek its welfare by the advantages he derives therefrom; every such advantage, and they are more numerous than a superficial observer would imagine, bringing a correspondent duty; but if one may hold himself released from all obligation to care for the well being of his country, (and to care aright he must act,) all may, and then you have the dissolution and falling asunder of the framework of society; the sacred edifice which was the
home of the citizens, falls with a fearful crash, covering our native land with its melancholy ruins. And this general wreck, this dismal decay of the roof-tree of the nation, the legitimate result of the working of religion which, according to the dogma we are considering, absolves citizens from their duties as such under the plea that their citizenship is above! But cannot heaven be peopled except at the expense of earth; is there an original and necessary opposition and contrariety between these two parts of one vast empire; and can the God of heaven wish this his lower province to be devastated by the pilgrims on their way to the Holy City? Before any of the pious utter again this pitiful exclamation against the fullest performance of our duties as citizens, let them take heed and beware of the end to which an opponent, not of their politics but of their Bible, might legitimately make their concession lead. For our own part, we must confess ourselves of the number of those who, in the sacred stillness of the closet, have learned from devout meditation on the oracles of truth, that it is the bounden duty of every Christian man to act the citizen as becometh the gospel of Christ. * To our eyes it is written as with a sunbeam, that the performance of our civil duties cannot be neglected without injury to the community, while the right discharge thereof would extensively serve not only the temporal but the religious interests of our countrymen and the world at large, bringing also to religion a revenue of renown. Nevertheless some from mistaken views of religion, as if it could only flourish in the dark shades of a useless seclusion; some, from cul
* Μόνον αξίως του ευαγγελίου του Χριστού πολιτεύεσθε. Phil. i. 27.
pable indifference to the general welfare ; some, from the want of a worthy firmness, combined with the ignoble love of ease; and alas ! some, oh, tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon, fearful of suffering loss, and preferring place or pence to principle, not only neglect these duties themselves, but thankfully take up at second hand the phrase which they find ready coined for them by their Established opponents, whose secret malice they traiterously gratify when they repudiate for themselves, and apply to their brethren as a term of reproach, the epithet, political Dissenters. And why not be political Dissenters, as well as mercantile dissenters, and scientific dissenters? I thank
thee, Jew, for teaching me that word.' The word is a good word, and so far from shrinking from the appellation, we deem it even honourable; it does not rightly stand opposed to the term religious Dissenter, as our cunning foes have endeavoured to teach us. Truly it is amusing to see how they can bedaub with their praise the religious Dissenter, as they hypocritically call the good easy soul that comes into their trap, and plays their game, and allows himself to be made a cat's paw to hinder and annoy his more consistent brethren. Yes, if to be political is to be vile, we will be yet more vile than we have been; but the term tells its own tale, which is simply this--that we love our country and study to promote its welfare, using whatever means we possess for its improvement and happiness; that we love our principles, and stand by them on all occasions with the hope that the holy leaven, as we cannot but deem it, will eventually pervade the whole mass. For political institutions of every kind are not an end that we rest in, but only a means to an end, and that end is the greater security, peace, freedom, and happiness of men, to which these are a proper means.
But the end is not only allowable for Christians to aim at, it is obligatory on them above all men; and if the end be legitimate and the means be appropriate, it follows that by how much Christians are bound to seek the end, by so much they are bound to use the means. Thus, then, if it be any shame to be political, we will even glory in our shame. The duty to which we take the liberty of summoning our brethren is that of conscientiously and thoroughly performing the various civil obligations that devolve on them. Sometimes these are merely parochial, and involve the good management of a parish ; but even in this smaller circle there is room for much good or evil, since, for example, and to omit other particulars, the comfort of the sick and needy poor depends materially on the kind of guardians and relieving officers that are chosen, and a vote even for the master of a poorhouse is important, from its bearing on those children of sorrow to whom the temper and disposition of their keeper are all in all. Sometimes these duties are municipal, and the good order of a town or city is concerned; nor can the character and princi