« EdellinenJatka »
with the doctrines of the most rigid Calvinism, and with the principles of the most fanatical intolerance.
And yet there are men-many men-in connexion with the General Assembly and its churches, who make little secret of their AntiCalvinistic opinions—and who treat with undisguised contempt all the pretexts and all the abettors of bigotry and persecution.
The explanation of this seemingly incredible fact we believe to be very simple. The laity, in general, take too little interest in ecclesiastical proceedings ; they pay to their resolutions very little attention; they allow enactments of the most grave and weighty import to be adopted by the clergy of their Church with little or no notice ; and the consequence is, that they are seldom aware, until it be too late, of the extent to which their rights have been trampled on, and their confidence abused, by the ministers to whom they have delegated the government of their Church and the regulation of its discipline.
Some of the liberal and enlightened laity of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland may be aware of the circumstances stated in this
and may inwardly grieve at a state of things which they deem it impossible to remedy; but we believe a larger number are, as yet, perfectly unacquainted with the real facts of the case, and will be astounded when they are informed that they can neither be admitted to the privilege of having their children baptized in the church of their fathers-nor to that of commemorating the death of their Saviour—nor to that of voting for the person whom they think best qualified to instruct themselves and their families in the doctrines and precepts of the Gospel-nor to that of taking part in the election of a lay elder, or even of a singing clerk, in the congregation to the support of which they perhaps largely contribute--without, either expressly or by clear and necessary implication, professing themselves believers in a book, which they regard as being, in many of its most essential articles, a gross perversion of the Word of God. We believe that many such persons are quite unaware that they cannot frequent the public worship of God in the meeting-houses with which they are connected, without sanctioning the ministrations of a man, who has solemnly and repeatedly declared his approbation of the Westminster Confession and Catechisms, and professed his resolution, “firmly and constantly to adhere to the doctrine contained in them, and to teach and defend it against all errors ;"—who is besides sure to be statedly put on trial, before his Presbytery, as to his fidelity in adhering to this resolution; and who, if ever suspected of holding any contrary doctrine, or even of omitting to preach the doctrines which he has subscribed, — is certain to be dragged as a criminal before a tribunal at whoso bar other offences may occasionally meet with indulgence, but where the heretic is sure to find no mercy. They who place themselves under the spiritual superintendence of such a man, can only be regarded by their fellow-men as expressing their approbation of the doctrines which he has pledged himself to inculcate, and of the exercise of that human authority in the church, which curtails his liberties and their own. This is a very serious and awful consideration; and whenever the simple facts are brought under the notice of persons so circumstanced, they may well occasion them to pause and ponder, lest they involve themselves in the guilt of falsehood towards man and hypocrisy towards God, by making a religious profession in which their heart has no share.
To individuals thus unhappily circumstanced, the non-subscribing churches of the Synod of Munster, the Presbytery of Antrim, and the Remonstrant Synod of Ulster, offer a haven of refuge. In them, no confession of man's devising is required to be subscribed, no doctrinal catechism is enjoined to be taught, no human system of doctrine is necessary to be professed. Whoever brings the Bible in his hand, as his creed, is freely received; and every believer in Christ is gladly recognised as a brother. The Unitarian Society for the Diffusion of Christian Knowledge, which is beginning to assume that place and station which the importance of its objects demands, is engaged in labouring for the emancipation of those who feel the degradation of the yoke that has been thrust upon them; and, at no distant day, many such will be enabled to come out from the land of bondage, and to walk in the full possession of the liberty wherewith Christ hath made them free.
THE NEW IRISH COLLEGES.
DURING the last session of Parliament, while the great measure for establishing three new colleges for the education of the youth of Ireland was in progress, the friends of human improvement were filled with exultation and delight at the prospect which was opened to their view. After many years of toil and anxiety in the cause of education, without distinction of sect or party-after struggling against the storms of bigotry and intolerance—hoping against hope—enduring the outpourings of sectarian virulence and every bad passion, masked under the pretence of zeal for God—to behold, at length, the consummation of their labours—to see the ministers of the crown rise successively in their places in the Legislature, for the purpose of propounding the very views and principles for which they had themselves so long contended—to hear those sentiments cheered to the echo by the adherents of almost all the different parties in Parliament—to behold the bill which was introduced in conformity with these principles, successfully conducted, through all its stages, carried by triumphant majorities, and at last passed into a law, amidst the congratulations of all generous-minded and philanthropic men-this was, indeed, an
ample recompense for their exertions, difficulties, and toils ;-and some of the more trustful and the more sanguine, who were disposed to burst forth into a rapturous Nunc dimittis, “Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace," might be excused for their enthusiasm, under circumstances so interesting and exciting.
The recent act of Parliament "for enabling her Majesty to endow New Colleges for the advancement of learning in Ireland," is unquestionably one of the most important laws that ever passed the Imperial Legislature: one of those which are calculated to leave the deepest impression upon society, and, if faithfully carried out, in its practical working, equal to any other in the amount of good which it is capable of producing. A measure of this kind, unquestionably deserves the fullest and most deliberate consideration of all who are interested in the happiness and improvement of our native land; and, for this reason, and because no account of its provisions has yet appeared in any periodical supported by the Irish Unitarians, it seems proper to introduce a short summary of its provisions.
The first Section grants to her Majesty £100,000 out of the Consolidated Fund, for the purpose of procuring lands, hereditaments, and tenements, for the erection of “one or more New Colleges for the advancement of learning in Ireland.”
The second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth Sections constitute the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland trustees for procuring the buildings and lands necessary for the Colleges, erect them into a corporation for that purpose, define their powers and duties in that capacity, and point out the process by which they may sue or be sued at law. (The Board of Works, however, are invested with no authority to make regulations for the new colleges.)
The tenth Section appoints her Majesty Visiter of the new colleges founded under the act, empowers her to appoint, from time to time, persons to execute the office of Visiter; enacts, “that all Statutes, rules, and ordinances, for the government and discipline of such Colleges, shall be made or approved by her Majesty;" that the sole power of appointing Presidents and Vice-presidents shall be vested in her Majesty; as also the power of appointing the Professors till the end of the year 1848, after which, Professors are to be appointed in such manner as Parliament may provide ; and, in default of any provision to the contrary, by her Majesty, her heirs and successors.
By the eleventh Section, the Statutes, &c. made for the discipline of the colleges, are to be laid before Parliament.
By the twelfth Section, a sum not exceeding £7000 per annum for each college, or £21,000 per annum in all, is granted to her Majesty for the maintenance of the colleges, and for defraying all salaries, exhibitions, and other expenses.
The thirteenth enables Professors to demand, in addition to their salaries, such reasonable fees from their students, as may be authorised by the Statutes approved by her Majesty.
Section fourteenth :-"And, for the better enabling every student in the said Colleges to receive religious instruction according to the creed which he professes to hold, be it enacted, that it shall be lawful for the President and Professors, or other governing body of each of the said Colleges, which shall be constituted in and by the said Letters Patent, to assign lecture-rooms within the precincts of such College, wholly or in part, for the use of such religious teachers as shall be recognised by such governing body, subject, in each case, to the approval of her Majesty, her heirs and successors ; and also, subject to the like approval, to make rules concerning the days and times when such religious instruction shall be given therein, and for securing that the same shall not interfere with the general discipline of the College: Provided always that no student shall be compelled, by any rule of the College, to attend any theological lecture or religious instruction other than is approved by his parents and guardians; and that no religious test shall be administered to any person, in order to entitle him to be admitted a student of any such College, or to hold any office therein, or to partake of any advantage or privilege thereof; but this proviso shall not be deemed to prevent the making of regulations for securing the due attendance of the students, for Divine worship, at such Church or Chapel as shall be approved of by their parents or guardians respectively.
By Section fifteenth, the students must either reside with their parents and guardians, or with friends selected by their parents, and approved by the President, or with a tutor or master of a boardinghouse, licensed by the President, or in a hall founded and endowed for the reception of students, and recognised by the college.
The sixteenth Section prescribes the form of licensing tutors and masters of boarding-houses for students.
The secenteenth enables any person, by deed or will, to convoy lands or money to trustees, or to the Commissioners of Charitable Bequests, for founding and endowing halls for the reception of students in any of the colleges, and to make rules for their government, on condition that the instrument of foundation provide that the rules shall be of no force, until approved by the Visiters appointed by her Majesty.
By the eighteenth Section, her Majesty may incorporate any number of persons who may be willing to found and endow such a hall or halls, and the Commissioners of Public Works are authorised to advance to such corporations money by way of loan.
The nineteenth Section enables any person, by deed or will, to vest estates in money in trustees, or the Commissioners for Charitable Bequests, "in trust for establishing and maintaining lectures, or other
forms of religious instruction, for the use of such students of the said Colleges, respectively, as shall be desirous of receiving the same, subject to such regulations, consistent with the intentions of the donor thereof, as shall be made by the governing body of the College, and approved by her Majesty, her heirs and successors: Provided always that no such gift shall take effect until it shall have been accepted by the governing body of the college, and until her Majesty, her heirs and successors, shall have signified her or their approval of the regulations according to which such gift is to be applied."
The twentieth Section requires the colleges to make reports, to be laid before Parliament.
And by the twenty-first the act may be amended or repealed, &c. &c.
Nothing can be more liberal, more just, or more satisfactory, in all respects, than the great principles enunciated in the fourteenth Section of the act, which we have set forth at full length. We believe it is the first time that any act has passed the Imperial Parliament, expressly recognising the right of students to receive instruction, whether in schools or colleges, without submitting to a religious test, or being required to attend upon a particular prescribed form of religious worship. Even in the act for incorporating the Belfast Academical Institution, it was considered sufficient to take care that no clause actually restrictive of religious liberty should be inserted: the same is the case in the Charter of the University of London; but here, by a noble exertion of legislative wisdom, not only is it, in so many words, enacted that no student shall be compelled to attend any theological lecture or religious instruction other than is approved by his parents or guardians; but it is also clearly laid down, that no religious test shall be administered to any person to entitle him to be admitted as a student, or to hold any office, or to partake of any advantage or privilege of the new colleges. Every Professorship and Lectureship-overy office, indeed, from that of the President down to the door-keeper, is thrown open to the competition of men of all sects, and professors of every shade of theological sentiment. Surely no provision could be better calculated for preventing those heats and jealousies which have so materially interfered with the usefulness of other seminaries: nor any more likely to bring forward a more numerous array of men qualified by talents, learning, and experience, as candidates for the different offices. The act has taken care that the Government of the country shall have it in their power to select the best men of the whole literary and scientific world for the office-bearers in these new colleges; and it must be through extraordinary corruption, or extraordinary blundering, if competent and efficient persons are not appointed.
It appears to us, indeed, that the provisions for the erection of halls for the residence of students—which are apparently expected to be