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Je le demande aux penseurs £ clair £ s , s'il existe un moyen de Her la morale a l'id £ e d ' un Dieu , saus que jamais ce raoyen puisse devenir un instrument de pouvoir dans la main des homines , une religion ainsi conijue ne seroit-elle pas le plus grand bonheur que Ton put assurer a la nature humaine?—DeStael , De la Litter ., Tom . I . ch . xi . p . 263 .
Whether Christianity be able to preserve and perpetuate itself in the world , or require to be maintained by the patronage and endowment of the civil power , is a problem of the deepest interest , not only to the Christian , who is naturally concerned for the success of a religion which he believes to be divine , but also to the politician and economist , who , whatever may be their own sentiments , cannot fail to discern its transcendent influence on
the minds of men , and what a powerful instrument , it may be made of human improvement and happiness . Perhaps England presents the most favourable circumstances that could be selected for trying this problem ; since the rare union of universal toleration with the establishment of a particular sect , the co-existence of every conceivable variety of Dissenters with an ancient , wealthy , and learned hierarchy , furnishes precisely those data which are required for its solution .
It would be foreign to the object of the present essay to search the New Testament for authorities for or against the lawfulness of religious establishments . The most candid of their advocates * admit that they form no part of Christianity , but are only a means of inculcating it . They are institutions of human origin for preserving and disseminating divine truths ; and the question for us to consider is , whether they fulfil the purposes for which they have been ostensibly framed . Like all human institutions , they must be estimated by their utility and expediency , by the effects which they have invariably been found to produce .
The principle of a religious establishment is the selection of some particular form of Christianity , either as to doctrine or discipline or both , in exclusion of all others , for the especial favour , patronage , and endowment of the civil power ; and to this exclusive principle , which is essential to the existence of religious establishments , all the mischiefs and abuses inseparable from them may be directly traced . It is true , that an establishment of
a more liberal and comprehensive character , intended to uphold only the essentials of Christianity , and to include several forms of church-discipline , has been advocated by some writers ; but in every plan that has been proposed , the principle of preference and exclusion is , to a certain degree , admitted , and , so far as it operates , it must lead to consequences that are obstacles to the progress of truth and genuine piety . In America , the experiment has been tried of a civil establishment of all forms of Christianity , by
requiring every man to contribute to the support of some religion , but allowing him the choice of his own . This scheme has been greatly commended , as combining all the advantages of an establishment , with the enjoyment of the most unrestricted liberty of conscience . Some men , however , conscientiously disapprove of all religious worship , and have no fixed religious principles ; and there is an obvious injustice in compelling them to contribute to the support of institutions which they consider useless , and to the propa-* Paley ' a Moral and Political Philosophy , Book vi . Ch . x .
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ON THE SPIRIT AND TENDENCY OF RELIGIOUS ESTABLISHMENTS .
Monthly Repository (1806-1838) and Unitarian Chronicle (1832-1833), Jan. 2, 1828, page 12, in the Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition (2008; 2018) ncse.ac.uk/periodicals/mruc/issues/vm2-ncseproduct2556/page/12/