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5. Letters on Church Establishments, in Reply to the Rev. Hugh
Slowell. By William M‘Kerrow, Minister in the Scotch Secession
Chapel, Lloyd Street, Manchester. 12mo. pp. 34. 1834. ' BLESSED, thrice blessed, shall that man be in my esteem,
whom God shall honour in uniting his church. I had rather be the happy instrument in advancing such a cause,
though I laid but the smallest stone in the walls of the temple * of peace, than enjoy all the fame of all the statesmen, and warriors, and philosophers, and poets, and orators who, by conferring temporal benefits on their species, have ever attracted the admiration of mankind; for the union of the church is the sum of human blessedness; and the highest object at which human wisdom and human charity can aim, is to bring every
man to the vital confession, “ I am not of Paul, nor of Apollos, 'nor of Cephas, but of Christ.""
Such is the declaration adopted by the Reverend Rector of Brixton Deverill, from an esteemed writer and minister of the • Establishment'; and who can refuse his approbation to the pious, conciliatory, and charitable attempt which language like this seems to promise ? Before we proceed, however, to examine the claim of Mr. Meek to the benediction due to the man actuated by so pure and holy an aim, we must be allowed to correct the reference made to the language of St. Paul in the above inaccurate citation. It is clear, from the passage in question, (1 Cor. i. 12,) that those were equally regarded by the Apostle as schismatics, who said, “ I am of Christ.” This has been a stumbling-block to some critics, who have supposed there must have crept in an erroneous reading. But the question which immediately follows, “ Is Christ divided ?" proves that the present reading is genuine:-9.d. Thou who sayest, “ I am of Christ,” art thou only a Christian? Is the body of Christ divided ? For by that assumption of being peculiarly of Christ, thou dividest against those who are of Paul or of Cephas. Dost thou then . deny that they too are of Christ? If so, thou art the veriest
and most intolerant schismatic of all.' Thus may the passage be fairly paraphrased. Or, if we might be allowed to accommodate the language to the circumstances of our own times, the spirit of the Apostle's argument would be expressed in some such terms as the following:_ It hath been declared to me that there are party contests among you.
I hear this, that one says, I am a Calvinist; another, I am a Wesleyan; a third, I am a Baptist; a fourth, I belong to the Church. What, can the Church of Christ be divided ? Was Wesley crucified for you, or were ' you baptized in the name of Calvin or Arminius?'
What if, in answer to the customary boast of the Episcopalian, · I am a Churchman,' the Dissenter should reply, But I am a Christian,' --would not the implied inference be justly resented,
namely, that the Churchman was not a Christian? Yet, there is not more of party spirit and illiberality in the one assumption, than in the other. The soi-disant Churchman excludes the Dissenter from the Church of Christ; the soi-disant Christian means in effect but the same thing. To apply the term Church, exclusively and distinctively, to a section of the congregation of the faithful in any place or country,--a section politically separated from their fellow-members of the visible Church of Christ, is to be guilty of schismatically dividing the Church. With this every Churchman is chargeable, who denies that the millions of his fellow-subjects, holding the same Protestant faith, but worshipping in other buildings than those miscalled churches, form an integral part of the Protestant Church of England, the Church of God in England.
The Churchman complains, not without reason, of the offensive assumption involved in the name of Unitarian, by which the followers of Priestley choose to designate their misbelief, because it seems to imply, that they alone acknowledge the essential Unity of the Godhead. Evangelical Dissenters have not less reason to complain of the manner in which the mere fact of worshipping in a church, rather than in a chapel, is made the ground of assuming an appellation which ought to be common to all the members of Christ's Church. To be a Churchman was a distinction formerly denied to the layman: in Popish times, it was synonymous with clergyman. It is now confined to those who are of the king's Church, having become, instead of an ecclesiastical, a political distinction. Which of the two is the grosser or more dangerous misnomer, it were difficult to say. The Romanist uses the word church as synonymous with the sacerdotal hierarchy, of which the Pope is the Head; the Churchof Englandist uses it as synonymous with the Establishment of which the king is the head. To bestow on a political estate or establishment the name of a Church, is to pervert and profane the scriptural word, not less than to restrict it to a Popish priesthood.
Again: there is not a more sectarian appellation than the one which is borrowed from the catholicity of the true Church of Christ. No Christians are so little catholic as those who distinguish themselves from Protestants by that appellation. Yet, our brother Protestants of the Establishment have little reason to complain of being stigmatized by the Papists as schismatics from the Catholic Church, while they persist in characterizing Dissenters as schismatics from the true churchmanship of our common faith.
The Established Church, viewed as a religious body, is but one among several non-established Churches of the Protestant faith in this country.
The Moravian Church, the Wesleyan Church, the Evangelical Nonconformist Church, are, as much as the Episcopal Church, integral parts of the Church of Eng
land. In ceasing to be an Establishment, the favoured denomination would not cease to be a Church, but would still retain every attribute which properly belongs to such an institution. Yet, owing to the vulgar error which the assumption of Episcopalians have served to perpetuate till it has become rooted in our language, the essentials of the Church have come to be placed in its political accidents, so that to release the Christian ministry from its bondage to State-craft, and to recover the rights of Christ's congregation from feudal usurpation, is considered as pulling down and destroying the Church.
If secular prejudice did not blind the strongest eyes, or at least distort the vision, it would be seen, that, till the political sectarianism engendered by a State Establishment be removed, which has produced this vicious phraseology, the religious union of the Church is impracticable. "What has dissolved the bond of cha
rity which unites the genuine followers of Christ in distinction from the world,' but the bond of alliance with the world, which unites the political Church in opposition to all who do not wear the same state livery? The very terms by which the bond of Christian unity was wont to be denoted, are now, as Robert Hall has remarked,'' exclusively employed to express a predilection for
a sect. The secular bond has almost superseded the spiritual; hence, in the words Church and Churchman, the religious idea is merged in the political. We have a striking illustration of this in a tract lying before us, entitled “I am a Churchman. Intended particularly for the younger and more unlearned members of the Church of England. By the Rev. H. Stowell, M.A." (Manchester, 1834, Price 1d. or 78. per 100.) The tenth reason put into the mouth of the more unlearned members' of the Éstablishment is as follows:
"I am a Churchman-because the Scripture tells me to be subject to the “ Powers that be;" the Church to which I belong is supported by the Government under which I live; that Government, whilst it permits, does not sanction Dissent; as a conscientious subject, therefore, I cannot, without the strongest reasons, abandon the Established Church.'
Very unlearned, indeed, must be the man, woman, or child, who is imposed upon by such a reason as this. Would Mr. Stowell venture to say in plain words, that St. Paul teaches obedience to heathen rulers, (the powers spoken of,) in the matter of religious belief? If not, why does he thus wrest Scripture from its true import? If religious conformity to the Church supported by the State, be a part of civil obedience, every man's common sense must teach him, that this must be as much the duty of a conscientious subject in Spain or Italy as in England. The saving clause, without the strongest reasons,' is worth nothing, for there can be no sufficient reasons for acting contrary to Scripture. Such a purely political reason for embracing the Christian faith, however, the Apostles would have deprecated with abhorrence, as vitiating altogether the motives of the professed believer -as a rendering to Cesar the things that are God's. That pious ministers of the Establishment should inculcate faith and obedience to Christ's ordinances upon such grounds, and by such motives, is a striking and melancholy proof of the ascendancy of secular considerations induced by their connexion with the State.
The religion of the New Testament binds all the members of the Church of Christ to pray for kings and all in authority,” to “honour kings" and governors, to be subject to the civil power, whatever be the form of government or the religion of the sovereign ; but does it any where teach the duty of embracing the king's religion, or of belonging to Cesar's Church ? Mr. Stowell's words would seem to imply this, which is contrary to the truth.
But, if the Government sanction of a religion or a church were indeed an evangelical or worthy motive for embracing it, we might urge, on the part of Dissenters, that Government does not barely permit; it protects Dissenters; and to protect is to sanction. To deny that Dissent is sanctioned by Government, when Dissenting ministers are, in that capacity, received by the Sovereign on his throne, and when they enjoy, as ministers of religion, various civil immunities, is to assert what is at palpable variance with fact. The Established Church enjoys a preference,-an unjust preference, but not an exclusive sanction. Were it otherwise, conscientious subjects of other denominations ought not to rest till they had obtained the sanction to which they feel to be entitled; and Mr. Stowell has given a political reason for being a Churchman, which amply justifies all the anxiety of the Dissenters to obtain the recognition of their claims. To be content with less than the unequivocal sanction and countenance of Government, would be, according to Mr. Stowell's argument, to acknowledge themselves political offenders, and to recognize the justice of penal disqualifications and prejudices that operate to their social disadvantage. If it be true, that Dissent, which has, at no cost to the State, covered the land with places of worship, with schools for the children of the poor, with associations of benevolence and religious zeal, to which the revival of religion within the Establishment is itself attributable, which is, on the same voluntary principle, planting missionaries on every shore,-if this is still only permitted, not sanctioned by Government, it cannot be that such à Government acts a just or wise part; and the enlightened patriot must desire to see every obstacle removed, which prevents
full justice from being done to those to whom both Government and the country are so deeply indebted for their unpatronized labours.
But the religious zeal and pious labours of Dissenting Ministers and churches are viewed with displacency and jealous alarm, not by Government, but by the Church established. The politician cannot fail to appreciate their value and importance ; it is the ecclesiastic only who quarrels with the good that is done without the pale of his own communion, and who invokes the aid of the State to repress and discourage the services of those who follow not his mode. In former times, the Government has too much implicated itself in the internal feuds of the Church, and, by its intermeddling, has inflamed the animosity. But Governments, as well as nations, are growing wiser ; and hence the cry, The Church is in danger. The Established Church, which has hitherto taken her stand, not on the superior efficiency, not on the purity of her discipline, not on her evangelical labours, but on antiquity, prescription, and the exclusive sanction of the State, feels this
ground giving way beneath her. Dissent, hitherto but tolerated, is beginning to be more directly sanctioned. Hence the clamour raised by conservative bigotry against a Reforming Government and the Representatives of the People. The eye of the Church is evil, because the Government is good; and, forgetful of their own lessons, the clergy, impatient of subjection to the powers that be, are loyal only to the powers that were, and vainly wish to recal the golden days of Charles the Second, when a Dissenter's dog durst not wag his tail without an ecclesiastical license.
'I am a Churchman,' says the Rev. Mr. Stowell, “because the 'Scripture tells me to be subject to the Powers that be. This is turning Scripture topsy-turvy! Would St. Paul have taught an
unlearned Churchman' to say, 'I am a Christian, because my religion teaches me to be subject to the Powers that be'? Or would he not have rather taught him to say, 'I am subject to
the Powers that be, because I am a Christian ’? The Scripture bases loyalty upon religion : our Churchman makes religion to rest upon loyalty. This is making sad work with both. For, after all, the common people are becoming too clear-sighted to be imposed upon by this spurious warrant for their faith. They have learned that Government supports many things which are of little benefit to them, and therefore they require some better sanction than Government support, to authenticate the claims of a Church to their implicit obedience. They have ceased to regard tithes as the holy credentials of an apostolic ministry; and strange to say, the religious teachers who come to them divested of all secular authority, without any Government commission, are the only ones, generally speaking, which make their way among the working classes. What is more, while the clergy, who demand