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We will quote another passage of the same sert:
Why, then, we now come to ask, should the governiug body n a state profess a religion? First, because it is composed of adividual men; and they, being appointed to act in a definite moral capacity, must sanctify their acts done in that capacity by the offices of religion ; inasmuch as the acts cannot otherwise be acceptable to God, or any thing but sinful and punishable in themselves. And whenever we turn our face away from God in our convluct, we are living atheistically.
In fulfilment, then, of his obligations as an individual, the statesman must be a worshipping man. But his acts are public — the powers and instruments with which he works are public - acting under and by the authority of the law, he moves at his word ten thousand subject arms; and because such energies are thus essentially public, and wholly out of the range of mere individual agency, they must be sanctified not only by the private personal prayers and piety of those who fill public situations, but also by public acts of the men composing the public body. They must offer prayer and praise in their public and collective character — in that character wherein they constitute the organ of the nation, and wield its collective force. Wherever there is a reasoning agency, there is a moral duty and responsibility involved in me The governors are reasoning agents for the nation, in their conjoint acts as such. And therefore there must be attached to this agency, as that without which none of our responsibilities can be met, a religion. And this religion must be that of the conscience of the governor, or none.”
Here again we find propositions of vast sweep, and of sound so orthodox and solemn that many good people, we doubt not, have been greatly edified by it. But let us examine the words closely; and it will immediately become plain that, if these principles be once admitted, there is an end of all society. No combination can be formed for any purpose of mutual help, for frado, for public works, for the relief of the sick or the poor, for the promotion of art or science, unless the members of the combination agree in their theologica. opinions. Take any such combination at random, the London and Birmingham Railway Company for example, and observe to what consequences Mr. Gladston: arguments inevitably lead. Why should the Dires tors of the Railway Company, in their collective case ity, profess a religion? First, because the direction coinposed of individual men appointed to act in a dui uite moral capacity, bound to look carefully to the property, the limbs, and the lives of their fellow-creatures, bound to act diligently for their constituents, bound to govern their servants with humanity and justice, bound to fulfil with fidelity many important contracts. They must, therefore, sanctify their acts by the offices of religion, or these acts will be sinful and punishable in themselves. In fulfilment, then, of his obligations as an individual, the Director of the London and Birmingham Railway Company must be a worshipping man. But his acts are public. He acts for a body. He moves at his word ten thousand subject
And because these energies are out of the range of his mere individual agency, they must be sanctified by public acts of devotion. The Railway Directors must offer prayer and praise in their public and collective character, in that character wherewith they constitute the organ of the Company, and wield its collected power. Wherever there is reasoning agency, there is moral responsibility. The Directors are reasoning agents for the Company. And therefore there must be attached to this agency, as that without which none of our responsibilities can be met, a religion. And this religion must be that of the conscience of the Director himself, or none. There must be public worship and a test. No Jew, no Socinian, no Presbyterian, no Cathslic, no Quaker, must be permitted to be the organ
the Company, and to wield its collected force.” Would Mr. Gladstone really defend this proposition ? We are sure that he would not : but we are sure that to this proposition, and to innumerable similar propositions, his l'easoning inevitably leads.
“ National will and agency are indisputably one, binding either a dissentient minority or the subject body, in a manner that nothing but the recognition of the doctrine of national personality can justify. National honour and good faith are words in every one's mouth. How do they less imply a personality in nations than the duty towards God, for which we now contend? They are strictly and essentially distinct from the honour and good faith of the individuals composing the nation. France is a person to us, and we to her. A wilful injury done to her is a moral act, and a moral act quite distinct from the acts of all the individuals composing the nation. Upon broad facts like these we may rest, without resorting to the more technical proof which the laws assord in their manner of dealing with corporations. If, then, a nation have unity of will, have pervading sympathies, have capability of reward and suffering contingent upon its acts, shall we deny its responsibility; its need of a religion to meet that responsibility?
A nation, then, having a personality, lies under the obligation, like the individuals composing its governing body, of sancti. fying the acts of that personality by the offices of religion, and thus we have a new and imperative ground for the existence of o state religion."
A new ground we have here, certainly, but whethe: sory imperative may be doubted. Is it not perfectly clear, that this argument applies with exactly as much free to every combination of human beings for a common purpose, as to governments ? Is there any such combination in the world, whether technically a corpo mtion or not, which has not this collective personality, from which Mr. Gladstone deduces such extraordinary Fonsequences ? Look at banks, insurance offices, dock companies, canal companies, gas companies, hospitals,
dispensaries, associations for the relief of the poor, assoriations for apprehending malefactors, associations of inedical pupils for procuring subjects, associations of country gentlemen for keeping fox-hounds, book societies, benefit societies, clubs of all ranks, from those which have lined Pall-Mall and St. James's Street with their palaces, down to the Free-and-easy which meets in the shabby parlour of a village inn. Is there a single one of these combinations to which Mr. Gladstone's argument will not apply as well as to the State ? In all these combinations, in the Bank of England, for example, or in the Athenxum club, the will and
agency of the society are one, and bind the dissentient minority. The Bank and the Athenæum have a good faith and a justice different from the good faith and justice of the individual members. The Bank is a person to those who deposit bullion with it. The Athenæum is a person to the butcher and the wine-merchant. If the Athenæum keeps money at the Bank, the two societies are as much persons to each other as England and France. Either society may pay its debts honestly; either may try to defraud its creditors ; either may increase in prosperity ; either may fall into difficulties. If, then, they have this unity of will; if they are capable of doing and suffering good and evil, can we, to use Mr. Gladstone's words, “ deny their responsibility, or their need of a religion to meet that responsibility ?” Joint-stock banks, therefore, and clulis, “having a personality, lie under the necessity of sanctif ing that personality by the offices of religion ;” and thus we have " a new and imperative ground” for requiring all the directors and clerks of joint-stock banks, and all the menibers of clubs, to qualify by taking the sacrament.
The truth is, that Mr. Gladstone has fallen into an
error very common among men of less talents than his own. It is not unusual for a person who is eager to prove a particular proposition to assume a major of huge extent, which includes that particular proposition, without ever reflecting that it includes a great deal more. The fatal facility with which Mr. Glaustone multiplies expressions stately and sonorous, but of indeterminate meaning, eminently qualifies him to practise this sleight on himself and on his readers. * He lays down broad general doctrines about power,
when the only power of which he is thinking is the power of governments, and about conjoint action when the only conjoint action of which he is thinking is the conjoint action of citizens in a state. He first resolves on his conclusion. He then makes a major of most comprehensive dimensions, and having satisfied himself that it contains his conclusion, never troubles himself about what else it may contain: and as soon as we examine it we find that it contains an infinite number of conclusions, every one of which is a monstrous absurdity.
It is perfectly true that it would be a very good thing if all the members of all the associations in the world were men of sound religious views. We have no doubt that a good Christian will be under the guidance of Christian principles, in his conduct as director of a canal company or steward of a charity dinner. If he were, to recur to a case which we have before put, a member of a stage-coach company, he vould, in that capacity, remember that “a righteous yan regardeth the life of his beast.” But it does not follow that every association of men must, therefore, as such association, profess a religion. It is evident that pany great and useful objects can be attained in this