Page images
PDF
EPUB

а

Persecution is frequently pleaded by innovators as their perquisite. If in their usual poverty they can gain credit for it, they have in it a capital and endowment. Hence their pitiable cries that they are persecuted. But we do not choose to make an attack possible from so false a position. It is not persecution for a man to defend his own. Without being subjected to the odious charge of persecuting, one may stand by the ancient creed and church of his fathers, against those who would pervert and change it.

If men, of faiths and polities unknown to the fathers, or rejected by them, desire pulpits, lecture-rooms, and professorships, the land is wide and free, and they may build where they will. But they should not claim the cuckoo's liberty, that avails itself of another's nest and nursing and feeding for its young.

It is a painful evidence of moral degeneracy when a people consent thus to a perversion of religious trusts. It shows a want of common morality and honorable feeling. Subscribing to the Thirty-nine Articles that one may subvert them, is a fraud tinged with perjury. It is enlisting to betray the citadel. Changing after occupation, from the intent of religious contractors, is nothing blameworthy. Indeed one has then the rare opportunity, that the best might covet, of showing how noble a thing it is to be honorable despite temptation, and to do right at a sacrifice, and to maintain the supremacy of a good conscience amid the revolutions of one's opinion. The reproach and immorality begin when the incumbent shows an unwillingness to relinquish what no longer belongs to him.

It is a marvel that any should be found to defend the English essayists and reviewers in holding livings where they must subscribe to the Thirty-nine Articles, while the drift of their endeavors is not only to undermine public confidence in those articles, but to take away the divine authority from the source of all Christian creeds.

Nor is the marvel much less when among ourselves in Puritan New England we see men sustained as honorable in subscribing to a faith that they may explain it away, and in using their pulpit or chair to promulgate another gospel than what was cherished and sought to be propagated by the pious dead who founded that church or school.

Calvinistic funds among us now pay for some of the severest as well as most scholarly attacks on the Institutes of the Genevan, and some of the most polished as well as poisoned shafts that now glance from the Puritan's coat of mail are sped from parapets that rough Puritan hands built up. It is all very well, no doubt, though we do not see it, to set forth gracefully in verse and prose that the real literati of New England constitute a Bramin caste, and that scholarship pertains to certain blood and physiological fibre, descending by natural generation. It would be quite as gratifying to be assured by observation that the antique morality, which kept men from appropriating another's goods to their own use, does also continue in the blood and descend from generation to generation.

Then should we not see gentry knights-errant make assault on the theology and morals of the Puritans from the grateful shades of elms that those Puritans themselves planted, and from archways and castle-doors that those same Puritans set up. But it is the fortune of some that they have an ancestry whose legacies will support them in caricaturing the creed and ridiculing the character of that ancestry. Evidently there are different ways of obtaining eminence, reputation, and a livelihood.

Passing round among the funded churches and professorships in the commonwealth, and marking the gift of a few sheep, some cotton cloth, a pewter flagon, and some yearly pecks of wheat here, and a princely fortune there, and a communion service elsewhere, and all for Christ and the church through a specific faith, we cannot refrain from asking what those godly and self-denying donors would say, if they could listen to the sermons, lectures, and hermeneutics now given within those walls that their funds built and their prayers and tears consecrated. A decayed faith brings reflections full of sorrow, as when one wanders among the ruins of the thousand churches that early Christianity planted in Northern Africa. But more sorrowful are the reflections and suggestions when we contemplate a perverted faith, vigorous and thriving through the consecrated funds it has perverted.

Many religious charities in New England have been thus alienated, and are now used to subvert the creed for which they were given. No greater grief, probably, could have touched the hearts of the founders than to have foreseen that their hard labors and the gifts out of their penury for the perpetuity of their religious principles would thus come to be employed as a weapon against their dearly cherished faith.

“So the struck eagle, stretched upon the plain,
No more through rolling clouds to soar again,
Views his own feather on the fatal dart,
And winged the shaft that quivered in his heart;
Keen were his pangs, but keener far to feel

He nursed the pinion that impelled the steel.” Such moral degeneracy is, however, natural. It is a firstfruit of the supplanting scepticism. Departure from Protestant foundations is more than an abandonment of a creed. It is changing the limits and relaxing the stringency of Christian morals. An early evidence of this is the incongruity we see of one's teaching divine truth and Christian morals from a pulpit or chair that was obtained by perversion and is held in injustice.

In the discussion of this question of toleration, a singular fact has obtruded itself often and at different points. Perhaps it may as well find a statement in this place.

The cry of religious persecution comes not so frequently from any class as from those who are in a transition state in their theology, or have a faith that they are interested to conceal. If it is persecution to make moral suasion and demonstrative argument like irresistible grace, and compel a public teacher of religion to declare his creed, no doubt there is much of it, and no doubt it will be continued, and defended, too. The English essayists and reviewers, and all others, must both take and declare their position in the field of theology and morals. Between the public and its public teachers in religious faith and practice there are mutual rights and obligations. A man has the right to teach what system he will, and the public is obligated to secure to him that right. On the other hand the public has the right to know what that man teaches. With his right there is a correlative obligation; and the pressure is reasonable and just, and in no sense persecution, that demands, and if need be, and it is possible, extorts morally from him a confession of his faith. The exaction of a declaration of belief from a public religious teacher is perfectly consistent with the broadest religious toleration.

a

Fifty and seventy years ago, when inorganic, and, to this day, unorganized Unitarianism was moving cautiously for an embodiment, there was frequent and echoed cry of intolerance by the unconfessing movers.

Public teachers and the trustees of the sacred foundations of both churches and educational institutions were accused of bigotry and intolerance, of unwarranted suspicions and the sowing of discord, because they insisted on knowing the real creed and intentions of those who proposed something better than “ the old paths.” They had a right to know. There is no moral obligation on any denomination to allow a portion of its ministry to alienate covertly the faith of their flocks. Keeping up old terms, while they are being emptied of their meaning, and finally to be left standing, like vacant cells of honey-comb, is a movement not only worthy of exposure, but one that imperatively demands it. No denominational rights are so sacred, and no ends so sanctifying, as to allow to a concealed transition and politic imposture immunity from exposure.

It is complimentary to one's self-knowledge, moral fairness, and manliness, if he is a religious teacher, to ask of him an expression of his doctrines. If he is so progressive that he cannot define his position or foretell his destination, much more have the community the right, as they have the more reason, to know his views. That he may not be able to give them is to his discredit, while it adds to our just anxiety to know them.

But we have carried this discussion far enough, and the conclusion is evident. A free pulpit, platform, ballot-box, and press, with a legal protection of all shades of opinion, and of all chartered investments to propagate the same, is the amplest liberty possible, and makes intolerance and persecution impossible. This throws every moral and religious question into the fair field of argument, and allows each sect to gain all it can from a common patronage. It allows no stealth to rob the old of their possessions, and no force but persuasion to prevent the new from acquiring. The faith, scheme, or polity, be it old or new, that cannot thrive in such favoring circumstances, must have an essential demerit, or an inaptness, and should not charge its ill success to persecution.

12

VOL. II. —NO. VIII.

ARTICLE II.

ENGLISH AND AMERICAN UNIVERSITY LIFE.

Tom Brown's School-Days at Rugby. By An Old Boy. Bos

ton : Ticknor and Fields. 1859. Tom Brown at Oxford. A Sequel to “School-Days at Rugby."

By the Author of “School-Days at Rugby.” Boston : Tick

nor and Fields. 1861. Five Years in an English University. By CHARLES Astor

BRISTED. New York: G. P. Putnam. 1852.

Of the three works above named, the first two are intimately connected, forming indeed but separate parts of one whole. They are designed to follow out the course of a young student (who, for convenience, is called Tom Brown) through his eight years' connection with the famous Rugby School, under Dr. Arnold, and to accompany him thence through his University course at Oxford. In this way the author attempts to set before us the reality of English School and University life. He is seeking to show us what this life is, according to the more advanced standards of education in England, and, incidentally, also, to reveal what it ought to be ; for he aims, evidently, not merely to be a delineator, but likewise a reformer. We confess that in this latter character he appears far less prominently than we had supposed before reading the books; still, this idea shapes and colors to a certain extent the whole narrative.

It is no part of our design in this article to analyze the story contained in these volumes, or to criticize it at any length, in reference to its literary or artistic qualities, though a few general observations touching the subject may not be out of place.

These books are not cast in the ordinary mould of works of fiction. The grand passion of love, which is usually deemed so indispensable in writings of this general kind, holds here. but a very subordinate place. It is not entirely overlooked, but it does not constitute the chief interest of the volumes. As a simple matter of fact, love could not very well be left entirely

« PreviousContinue »