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The claim of a Church to universal dominion is, like the claim of Spain and Portugal, based on papal grants, to the exclusive navigation, commerce and fisheries of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. It is, however, just as reasonable as the pretense that a parish can be set off by metes and bounds, or that a territorial area can be assigned to a particular minister to exercise therein exclusive ecclesiastical and spiritual functions. The assertion of a Church, or of a man, to supremacy over human conscience and judgments, is less defensible than a claim to special occupancy of land and water. Some nations have been driven to renounce, as against another, a right to parts of the ocean; but a man, in the image of the Creator, cannot surrender his inalienable liberty of worship or right of free thought.
The continuity of a Church is not like that of a State. There is little analogy between the two. One cannot by natural birth, by inheritance, by purchase, by the will of the flesh, become a member of the kingdoin of Christ. A State may change its form of civil constitution from a monarchy, an aristocracy, to a republic, to any imaginable shape; but it does not lose its personality, nor forfeit its rights, nor become discharged from its obligations. France under President Grevy is the France of Napoleon or Louis Fourteenth. It retains its identity through all mutations. The corporate body succeeds to the rights and obligations of its predecessor. • Idem enim est populus Romanus, sub regibus, consulibus, imperatoribus.' It would require a vast stretch of credulity or ignorance to imagine the hierarchies of the present day to be the same as the Churches to which Paul wrote his letters. Conditions of citizenship, descent or alienation of property, distribution of estates, may be changed by human governments; but the conditions of membership in a New Testament Church are unalterable because they are spiritual and Godprescribed.
Our books contain treaties in reference to intervention by one nation in the internal affairs of another upon the ground of religion, and learned discussions as to the right of law-making departments of government to prescribe, modify, or interpret articles of religious faith. It seems that in England even there is one and the same identical law-giver for Church and State. The Parliament, in the Act of Uniformity of Elizabeth, instituted the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion and put together a Book of Common Prayer. The atrocious cruelties of the religious persecutions, the execrable violations of the rights of mankind,' to use the strong denunciation of Sir James Mackintosh, have grown out of the claims of government and Churches to control and punishi men's opinions. An Establishment is necessarily and always a usurpation and a wrong. A New Testament Church cannot, by possibility, be in alliance with a State and retain its scripturalness, its conformity with apostolical precept. Capability of such a union is the demonstration of a departure from a primitive model.
A tree is known by its fruits. An Establishment, ex vi termini, implies discrimination, irregularity, injustice, an arrogant claim to make Cæsar determine
what belongs to God. Things will follow tendencies. Those permanently supported by the government sustain the government and resist concessions of popular liberty. In the time of Henry VIII. marriages in England were regulated by the canon law of Rome, 'grounded often on no higher principle than that of papal caprice;' and when the king's conscience and conduct demanded it, the Church found a semblance of excuse for his lust and tyranny. When Elizabeth was on the throne the Archbishop of Canterbury, to quiet some doubts as to her legitimacy, was ordered to draw up a “Table of Degrees' which would place her succession on scriptural grounds. The disingenuous adulation of the dedication to King James in the 'Authorized Version of the Bible is disgraceful to those who signed it.
The ecclesiastical Peers in the House of Lords uniformly and almost as a unit have, to quote from Joseph Hume, “been the aiders and abettors of every tyranny and oppression which the people have been compelled to endure.' Bills for removing Roman Catholic disabilities, Jewish disabilities, University tests, and to open church-yards to Non-conformist burial services, etc., etc., have found in them steadfast opponents.
Joseph Chamberlain, in 1885, in a public address, put this pertinent inquiry : 'Is it not a singular thing that of all the great movements which have abated the claims of privileges or destroyed the power of tyrants, which have freed the nation or classes from servitude and oppression, or raised the condition of the great mass of the people, there is scarcely one which has owed any thing to the initiative or encouragement of the great ecclesiastical organization which lays claim to exclusive national authority and support ?'
This hostility to popular rights and the removal of abuses is the natural consequence of the system of union of Church and State. Since the Reformation there has been much progress in securing the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship without discrimination or preference. Our Federal and State Constitutions, following the lustrous precedent of Rhode Island, have embodied religious liberty in American organic law; and our example and the undisputed success of voluntaryism are teaching lessons of freedom to the crushed millions of earth. In all civilized countries toleration is practiced. Wearily and painfully the work goes on. Privileges are wrested from reluctant hands, always after stubborn resistance, never once through gracious concession. Even when laws are repealed the social stigma is vigorously applied. “Have any of the Pharisees believed on Him?' is constantly rung in our ears. Truth will prevail. Sire bequeaths to son freedom's flag, and establishments and endowments must yield to religious equality before the law. It is a delusion to imagine that the final victory has been won. Prerogative and privilege, sanctioned by antiquity and buttressed by wealth and power, will contest every inch. The demands of the pope for the restoration of his temporalities, and his lamentations over his voluntary imprisonment in the Vatican, show that Cardinal Manning spoke ex cathedra when he
affirmed that the Unam Sanctam Decretal and the Syllabus contain the doctrines of Ultramontanism and Christianity. Pius IX., in a letter, August 7, 1873, to William, King of Prussia, claimed that every one who had been baptized belonged in some way or other to the pope. In July, 1884, a Cuban archbishop declared in the Spanish Cortes that “The rights of the Roman pontiff, including the rights of temporal power over the States, were inalienable and cannot be restricted; and were before and superior to the so-called new rights of cosmopolitan revolution and the barbarous law of force.'
The tenacity with which the Establishment in England and Scotland holds on to its power and perquisites, and the success up to this time in foiling the Liberationists, are proofs that the battle of a thousand years is still to be prolonged.
The ‘History of the Baptists' shows the victories of the past and the true principles of the contest if permanent success is to be attained. Justification by personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ lays the axe at the root of all sacramentalism, sacerdotalism, alliance of Church with State and interference with soul liberty. The entire sufficiency and authority of the inspired word of God, the right of private judgment, the individuality of all religious duties, a converted churchmembership and the absolute headship of the Christ, will give success to efforts for a pure Christianity.
Dr. Armitage has exceptional qualifications for writing a history of the Baptists. His birth, education, religious experience, connection with England and the United States, habits of investigation, scholarly tastes and attainments and mental independence, fit him peculiarly for ascertaining hidden facts and pushing principles to their logical conclusion.
J. L. M. CURRY.