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the second, against the clergy for the overthrow of priestly influence. The game is a very dangerous one to play, and Congregationalists may well hesitate before they venture on so doubtful an experiment. If the clergy be helped to a victory in the first instance, it may not be so easy as at present is thought, to defeat them in the subsequent conflict. At all events, Nonconformists ought to pause before they become the defenders of a system based on our sectarian distinctions, and necessarily throwing immense power, especially in the rural districts, into the hands of a priesthood earnestly bent on the maintenance of their own pretensions, and in many cases actively engaged in the dissemination of dogmas leading to the establishment of civil tyranny on the one hand, and of Romish superstition on the other.
The religious difficulty is undoubtedly the great hindrance to the adoption of a purely secular system, but if this has any weight at all, it must prevent Nonconformists from accepting the aid of Government altogether. But has not more been made of it than is necessary ? It is not for us here to indicate even the outline of a plan, but surely it is possible to conceive of a scheme which shall be secular and yet not irreligious. It must be remembered, too, that the day school is not the only agent in the education of the people. It is laid down with great confidence, and with great justice, that a Christian man cannot approve of an education which is not religious in its character, and then it is quietly assumed that the teaching of the dayschool must be religious. The assumption involves the fallacy that all education is to be given in the day-school. Those who employ the argument are certainly very frequently inconsistent in their own practice, inasmuch as they will send their own children to day-schools where there is no religious training at all. We may be told, indeed, that in their case this element is supplied by the teachings of the home, which in the case of the classes whose benefit is contemplated in the national system will be utterly wanting. But surely the churches have sufficient zeal, and sufficient power to supply this want, and even though no direct religious instruction were communicated in the dayschool, it is not to be supposed that the work would be neglected. In conclusion, we would only say that the question of National Education is daily acquiring increased importance, and presenting itself in new phases, and Congregationalists will do well to pause before they identify themselves with a system which has egregiously failed to meet the most pressing wants of the times, and which is daily becoming more distasteful to men of decided Liberal sympathies and opinions. The great problem of the day is, how to deal with the numbers who lie outside our present
modes of operation, and we hope yet to see a scheme which shall meet their case, and which may be cordially accepted by the friends of religious equality as not involving any compromise of the great principle for which they are contending.
TOPICS OF THE MONTH.
PARLIAMENT, called together at this very unusual time of year, only to tax us for the very dubious Abyssinian incursion, has performed some useful service.
It was necessary that the Session should be opened with official regularity, and therefore a Queen's Speech must be composed, in which the Ministers were obliged to speak out on some important points of foreign policy, and also to give some indications of the business which they propose to find for the Legislature during 1868. The Expedition to Abyssinia was declared to have been undertaken out of the need to release the envoys whom Her Majesty had accredited to the Court of the Abyssinian Sovereign with messages of peace, and the troops were marching into King Theodore's dominions " for that purpose only." The Italian question made the subject of a paragraph, which ended with the expression of a “trust” that the Emperor of the French “ will find herself enabled, by an early withdrawal of his troops, to remove any possible ground of misunderstanding between His Majesty's Government and the King of Italy." This left it quite open to any one to infer that our Government had accepted Louis Napoleon's wily invitation to a Conference on the Roman Question, but Lord Stanley soon dispelled all apprehensions of this sort. He had, he said, told the French Emperor that England did not see any good end to be answered by a Conference. Certainly she would not be a party to it, unless she was assured that terms would be laid before it which were pretty certain to be accepted by both parties. The Queen was made to refer to the Fenian outbreak as one which had in England assumed the form" of organised violence and assassination.” Her Majesty relies upon the firm administration of the law, and the loyalty of the great mase of the people," to put all outrages down “ vigorously.” The settlement of the Parliamentary boundaries for the English boroughs, with Reform Bills for Ireland and Scotland, will occupy much of the time of Parliament, and, in addition to these, a Bill for Preventing Bribery and Corruption at Elections, a Public Schools Bill, the Amendment of the Laws affecting the Mercantile Marine, other measures for a general amendment of the law, and for regulating the Importation of Cattle, will be introduced by Ministers. Her Majesty recommends the Education of the people to the especial regard of Parliament. Mr. Disraeli begs that this may not be considered “a mere rhetorical flourish." No bill on the subject need be expected this Session. Lord Derby's language with regard to it leads to the inference that an educational census is to be undertaken, and this, like the Irish Church Commission, will have the result of effectually shelving the question for a while.
The execution of the Fenian convicts in Manchester has been sorrowfully approved by all right thinking persons; and there is reason to hope that this stern example will have the desired result in the repression of the violence upon which these wicked disturbers of the public peace seemed encouraged to venture by the manifest reluctance of the authorities to resort to any severe measures. The legal and moral guilt of the three men hanged at Manchester is indisputable. They went out armed to resist the execution of the law, and quite prepared to kill any one who stood in the way of the execution of their design. They were all taken close to the spot, and there is every reason to believe the witnesses who deposed that the fatal shot which deprived poor Sergeant Brett of life was fired by Allen. That these men were engaged in a conspiracy against the English Government, and were, therefore,“ political offenders," does not in the least extenuate their guilt, though that is the plea which was chiefly relied upon by those who contended that they ought not to be punished for murder. Their crime was not identical with that of the cut-throat or the hired assassin, but the shooting of a police officer, while quietly doing his duty, cannot, under any circumstances, be other than a murder. The popular mind, and especially the Irish mind, is apt to confound political crimes with crimes in a political cause, and for a political motive, but the difference is one essential to be taught at all cost. If the murder of Brett is to be palliated, because the men who did it were Fenians, engaged in an attempt to make Ireland a Republic, then let Clement and Ravaillac be canonised. If the Fenians insist that “The end sanctify the means," the English Government will at least insist also upon the right of judging of “the end” for themselves, and as in their opinion the Fenian end is as bad as it can possibly be, they will hold themselves perfectly justified in executing those who had resort to such murderous means. If a reprieve had been possible before, it was impossible after Finlen and his company had invaded the Home Office, and threatened that the lives of the Ministers should not be safe if the Fenians were hung. These violent men drove the law to try conclusions with them. After these and similar menaces, it did not seem possible that justice should forego its claims with any prospect of securing the public safety. It is the retention of the death penalty that invests cases of this kind with dif. ficulty. If the murderers of Brett had been sentenced to any punishment short of death, there would have been no question about the propriety of carrying it out.
CUIT Sir,—The question whether God be the Father of all men, is one of very serious practical importance. On the answer which we give to it, our whole presentation of the Gospel will depend. It will make all the difference in our preaching whether we are to say,
“ God is your Moral Governor submit to Him; in that character, and He will become your Father," or “God is your Father; you, His children, have wandered from His home; return to Him and He will welcome you.''
Let us ask then, not as a mere question of theology, but as a matter of the keenest human interest, what are we to say to the sinful children of men ? May we call upon them all to pray, and to say, "OUR FATHER WHICH ART IN HEAVEN," or are we to tell them that the Divine Fatherhood is conditioned by their own faith? When we read the parable of the Prodigal Son, are we to discern in its pathetic words the relation which God sustains to our entire race, or are the "two sons” two classes of believers only? Now if we are to answer these questions according to some recent “Cunningham Lectures, and to a Sermon that you printed for our instruction last month, some of us have all our lives been making a very great mistake. Nor am I, for one, inclined to change my course without sufficient reason shown.
In the text prefixed to the sermon in question, Jehovah is represented as saying, "I will be to you a Father”-i.e., on certain conditions fulfilled. What, it may be asked, can be plainer than that He is not a Father apart from their fulfilment? In reply, let us look into the matter a little. The promise is a quotation from the Old Testament, or rather, with its context, a series of quotations; setting forth, primarily, the privileges of Israel. Now it is quite certain that God was already a Father to Israel, whether Israel acknowledged it or not. The declaration was made in Egypt, “ Israel is my son, even my first-born.": It was the motive to gladsome obedience: “Ye are the children of the Lord your God.” In after days, the truth was employed to show
Exodus iv. 22. Birlit † Deut. xiv. 1. 1965
the heinousness of Israel's rebellious ingratitude: "I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me." But eren thus it was not too late to repent, and this was the plea of penitent humiliation : “ Doubtless Thou art our Father.”And the plea was to be heard—for, saith Jehovah, “I am a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is my first-born." Thus then stands the fact, and the promise must be in harmony with it. He who is already the Father of Israel says, “I will be a Father to him"- plainly meaning "I will make manifest my Fatherly character, existing always, though veiled from my people's sight by their unbelief and sin.” So, at the conclu. sion of the chapter last quoted, Jehovah declares, respecting the “latter days," and the “new covenant" with Israel, “I WILL be their God." Was He not their God before ? The whole course of Scrip. ture statement, therefore, shows that the promise of Fatherly good. ness, in 2 Cor. vi. 18, is perfectly compatible with the previous existence of the fatherly relation; and, so far as this passage goes, we are justified in reasserting that God is the Father of all.
But it is argued, on the one hand, that the declarations usually ad. duced in proof of this belief are not sufficient to warrant it, and on the other, that the Divine dealings with men--both with the lost, and (up to a certain point) with the sared--are inconsistent with universal Fatherhood. Let us examine the latter allegation first.
Does God act towards His creature, man, in an unfatherly way?
It is admitted on all hands, that the paternal relation is an inadequate representation of what God is to us. Like all human analogies, it is not to be pressed in every point. But is it false? That it is so, is argued on such grounds as the following: “A father has before him the welfare of his children-a magistrate the welfare of the com. munity; a father must be guided by love-a magistrate, by law; a father may do many things which a magistrate must not; a magistrate must do many things which a father could not. The parental analogy, therefore, fails altogether in its supposed adaptation to illustrate the method of God with man." |
And again, the distinguished theologian, whose words I am quoting, "fully admits" the "certainty" of the conclusions, that if God be the Father of all there can, in the Divine administration, be no destruc tive punishment, since all paternal punishment must of necessity be remedial;" and that in the Divine administration there can be no such thing as expiation for sin by the suffering and death of another, it being quite inconceivable that a parent should, with respect to his erring children, pursue so frightful a method.
These are startling statements, and should be seriously pondered. The fallacy, I venture to think, lies mainly in the first sentence quoted. Examine it, and, in its application to the Divine government, the contrast instituted will vanish. A father cares for his familymagistrate for the community. But, if God be the Father of all, the family and the community are one. Hence, the paternal and the
* Isaiah i. 2. | Isaiah lxiii. 16, lxiv. 8. Jeremiah xxxi. 9. § Jeremiah xxxi. 33. || CHRISTIAN SPECTATOR, PP. 649, 650.
Ib. p. 648.