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intimations given us in Revelation; not presuming to frame, on such points, explanations of what Scripture has left unexplained; nor (much less) to condemn, as unhappily has so often been done, our fellow-Christians who may reject those explanations; and on such grounds to create hostile separation.
But it is surely rash to pronounce that such separations were, properly speaking, designed; or, on any point, to draw inferences as to the Divine Will from conjectures of our own, based on the events that actually take place, For, in a certain sense, it may be said that whatever happens must be according to the Will of the Most High, since He does not interpose to prevent it. But 'in our doings' (as is expressed in the 17th Article) 'that Will of God is to be followed which is expressly declared in Scripture.'
'It must needs be,' says our Lord, 'that offences come; but woe unto that man by whom the offence cometh.' And Paul, who tells his converts, that 'there must be heresies, that they who are approved may be made manifest,' bids them, nevertheless, 'reject a man that is an heretic.'
As for the analogy of a prince or master who, the reviewer says, always endeavours to give unmistakeable directions, Bishop Butler has touched it very well when he says,1 'The reason why a prince would give his directions in this plain manner is, that he absolutely desires such an external action should be done, without concerning himself with the motive or principle on which it is done; i.e., he regards only the external event, or the thing's being done, and not at all the doing it, or the action- Whereas, the whole of morality and religion consisting merely in action itself, there is no sort of parallel between the cases. But if the prince be supposed to regard only the action, —ie., only to desire to exercise, or in any way prove, the understanding or loyalty of a servant, he would not always give bis orders in such a plain manner.'
But as for the question why a state of trial does exist—why earth is not heaven—why any evil is permitted in the universe, —Bishop Butler had too much sense and modesty to attempt any solution.
(III.) I fully concur with the reviewer in disapproving of the union of vast masses of mankind under one government, ecclesiastical or civil. And in some instances, where men were so wedded to the erroneous view above alluded to, of the character of christian 'unity,' as to think that the combining of all Christians in a single community on earth is a thing to be aimed at, their doctrinal disagreements, which prevented this, may have incidentally' proved a benefit. But it is a mistake to suppose that there is no alternative but such a combination, or else, hostile separation and opposition. Considering, indeed, how many religious Bodies of Dissenters there are among us, and that all Protestants are dissenters from the Church of Rome—revolted subjects who have renounced their subjection,— it is not, perhaps, to be wondered that the two ideas, of independent distinctness, and of disagreement, which have no necessary connexion, should have become associated in men's minds.1 But the Apostles, who certanly did not encourage diversities of doctrine, founded numerous distinct Churches, several even in the same province; which, though not at all at variance, were not placed under any common authority on earth, except that of the individual Apostle who founded them. And in the earliest ages the christian Churches were reckoned by hundreds. It was in later times, and very gradually, that the claims of Rome, and of Constantinople, to universal supremacy, were admitted.
1 Analogy, part ii. chap. vi. p. 247, Fitzgerald's edition.
And in the present day, the American Episcopalian Church is kept apart from our own, not by difference of doctrine, but simply by being American. The Churches of Sweden and of Denmark, again, and of some other Protestant States, are not, I believe, at all at variance with each other, though not subject to any common government; and it has been remarked that Bacon himself had no idea of subjection to any such common government.
(IV.) I am as fully convinced as the reviewer that no uninspired man can justly pretend to infallible certainty as to what opinions are erroneous. But (i) no argument drawn from man's fallibility can at all avail to repress persecution, except with those who acknowledge fallibility. And it is well known that Churches comprising a majority of the christian world do lay claim to an unerring certainty in matters of doctrine. So that, with them, the argument which it is alleged all must admit, would have no force at all . To tell a Roman Catholic to admit that his Church can have no certainty as to what is or is not an error, would be simply telling him to cease to be & Roman Catholic.
1 I have treated fully of this point in the Lessons on lidigiuw Worship, lesson x.
If, however, all that is meant is that, however certain we may be, ourselves, we cannot always demonstrate to others—to the very persons in error—that their opinions are wrong, the persecutor would answer that since he cannot convince them, he must be content to make sure, in some way, whether by their death, banishment, incarceration, or otherwise, that they shall be effectually prevented from propagating their errors.
But (2) even if a ruler admits himself to be not completely infallible, still the above argument will not preclude persecution. As I observed in a former work,1 'In protesting against the claim of the civil magistrate to prescribe to his subjects what shall be their religious faith, I have confined myself to the consideration that such a decision is beyond the province of a secular ruler; instead of dilating, as some writers have done, on the impossibility of having any ruler whose judgment shall be infallible. That infallibility cannot be justly claimed by uninspired Man, is indeed very true, but nothing to the present purpose. A man may claim—as the Apostles did—infallibility in matters of faith, without thinking it allowable to enforce conformity by secular coercion; and, again, on the other hand, he may think it right to employ that coercion, without thinking himself infallible. In fact, all legislators do this in respect of temporal concerns; such as confessedly come within the province of human legislation. Much as we have heard of religious infallibility, no one, I conceive, ever pretended to universal legislative infallibility. And yet every legislature enforces obedience, under penalties, to the laws it enacts in civil and criminal transactions; not on the ground of their supposing themselves exempt from error of judgment; but because they are bound to legislate—though conscious of being fallible— according to the best of their judgment; and to enforce obedience to each law till they shall see cause to repeal it. What should hinder them, if religion be one of the things coming within their province, from enforcing (on the same principle) conformity to their enactments respecting that? A lawgiver sees the expediency of a uniform rule, with regard, suppose, to weights and measures, or to the descent of property; he frames, without any pretensions to infallibility, the best rule he can think of; or, perhaps, merely a rule which he thinks As Good as any other; and enforces uniform compliance with it: this being a matter confessedly within his province. Now if religion be so too, he may feel himself called on to enforce uniformity in that also; not believing himself infallible either in matters of faith or in matters of expediency; but holding himself bound, in each case alike, to frame such enactments as are in his judgment advisable, and to enforce compliance with them; as King James in his prefatory proclamation respecting the Thirty-nine Articles, announces his determination to allow of 'no departure from them whatever.' I do not conceive that he thought himself gifted with infallibility; but that ho saw an advantage in religious uniformity, and therefore held himself authorized and bound to enforce it by the power of the secular magistrate. The whole question therefere turns, not on any claim to infallibility, but on the extent of the province of the civil magistrate, and of the applicability of legal coercion, or of exclusion from civil rights.'—[pp. 157, 8.]
1 Euays on the Dangert to Christian Faith, essay v. § Ii. Third edition.
And it may be added that (as I have elsewhere remarked)l a ruler who believed in no religion, as probably was the case with many of the ancient heathen lawgivers, might yet, like them, think the established religion a useful thing to keep the vulgar in awe, and might, on grounds of expediency, enforce conformity.
'It is certain, that heresies and schisms are, of all others, the
greatest scandals' 'Nothing doth so much keep men out of the Church, and drive
men out of the Church, as breach of unity.'
If proof of the truth of Bacon's remark were needed, it might be found in the fact, that among the more immediate causes of the stationary, or even receding, condition of the Reformation, for nearly three centuries,—a condition so strangely at variance with the anticipations excited in both friends and foes by its first rapid advance,—the one which has been most frequently remarked upon is the contentions among Protestants; who, soon after the first outbreak of the revolt from Home, began to expend the chief part of their energies in contests with each other; and often showed more zeal, and even fiercer hostility, against rival-Protestants, than against the systems and the principles which they agreed in condemning. The adherents of the Church of Rome, on the contrary, are ready to waive all internal differences, and unite actively, as against a common enemy, in opposing the Greek Church, and all denominations of Protestants. They are like a disciplined army under a single supreme leader; in which, whatever jealousies and dissensions may exist among the individual officers and soldiers, every one is at his post whenever the trumpet gives the call to arms, and the whole act as one man against the hostile army. Protestants, on the contrary, labour under the disadvantages which are well known in military history, of an allied army—a host of confederates,—who are often found to forget the common cause, and desert, or even oppose one another.
1 See Essay i. On the Kingdom of Christ.
Hence, it is continually urged against the Reformed Churches, 'See what comes of allowing private judgment in religion. Protestants, who profess to sacrifice everything to. truth, do not, after all, attain it, for if they did, they would (as has been just observed) be agreed. The exercise of their private judgment does but expose them to the disadvantages of divisions, without, after all, securing to them an infallible certainty of attaining truth; whilst those who submit to the decisions of one supreme central authority, have at least the advantage of being united against every common adversary.'
And this advantage-certainly does exist, and ought not to be denied, or kept out of sight. The principle is indeed sound, of making truth, as embraced on sincere conviction, the first object, and unity a secondary one; and if man were a less imperfect being than he is, all who adhered to that principlo would, as has been said, be agreed, and united; and truth and rectitude would have their natural advantages over their opposites. But as it is, what we generally find, is truth mixed with