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stupendous idea of eternity. Upon this he dwells with a conigenial expatiation, with a calm severity of illustration, and an irresistible truth, which are exceedingly adapted to dispose to a rejection of the popular doctrine. We use the word 'dispose' with a particular purpose. We reverence Mr. Foster's character and intellect, and no feature of his mind has more powerfully excited our respect than that depth and delicacy of moral feeling which shrunk from the conception of everlasting punishment, yet we dare to say that in the way in which he arrived at the conviction in which he rested, on this subject, there were principles involved that cannot be successfully maintained, and that would be equally potent, if true, as opposed to doctrines which he did believe. It is plain to us that the impression of the moral view did unfit him for a sufficiently cool and careful survey of the whole evidence upon the point. His language is remarkably significant. Speaking of the unnihilation theory he says-- Even this would be a prodigious relief: but it is an admission that the terms in question do mean something final, in an absolute sense. I have not directed much thought to this point; the grand object of interest being a negation of the perpetuity of misery. I have not been anxious for any satisfaction beyond that. No one, we imagine, would maintain the best, or a good, state of mind, for investigating the evidence of a doctrine to be that in which the grand object of interest is its negation. Far be it from us to suspect Mr. Foster of any wilful mistreatment of the matter, but very little knowledge of human nature is required to perceive great peril of error in the having a grand object of interest in aught but the discovery of truth, whatever it may be. The subject is one of immense moral difficulty, but the difficulty attaches to other views than the orthodox. We have said that Mr. Foster's opinion respecting the depravity of men was unusually severe, involving real and absolute impotence,' and yet he held that on no allowable interpretation do they, (the terms in question) 'signify less than a very protracted duration and formidable severity: Now, we have no hesitation in avowing our conviction that the doctrines of Mr. Foster, as to the present utterly helpless state of man's nature, and the terrific punishment which nevertheless will be inflicted on the unbelieving in the future state, present a moral difficulty, not perhaps as great, but quite as insuperable by us now, as the doctrine of eternal punishment. Any reader going carefully through his remarks will at once perceive how forcibly against the belief of the writer itself may his objections be turned.
We should insist, were we arguing the subject, on putting the controversy on the ground of scriptural criticism, as the only
safe, and the only philosophical, one. And on that ground, whatever might be the issue as to the eternity of future punishment, (we entertain no doubt as to what it ought to be,) very little evidence indeed would be forthcoming for the view to which Mr. Foster seemed to cling, viz. that of restoration somewhere in the endless futurity. If the terms employed do describe annihilation, there is no way of avoiding the conclusion that it will take place at the judgment, so that there will be no punishment at all, unless indeed, the terms in question being admitted, as Mr. Foster suggests, by this theory to 'mean something final, in an absolute sense, it is supposed that the eternity of punishment is vindicated after all. But we must stop.
Art. VII.-1. The Macauley Election; or, the Designs of the Ministry.
By John Robertson. 8vo. pp, 16. London : J. Johnston. 2. A Few Words to the Electors of Edinburgh, with a corrected Report of
some Speeches delivered during the late Contest. By Sir Culling
Eardley Smith, Bart. 8vo. pp. 20. Edinburgh: W. Innes. In our last number we referred to the Irish ecclesiastical policy of our new ministers, and now return to the subject in conformity with the promise then made. For doing so we need not apologize. Necessity is laid upon us, and the readers of the Eclectic will be sure to take a deep and lasting interest in the matter. With them at least, the latitudinarianism of a concealed infidelity, or the treacherous connivance prompted by political expediency, to the sacrifice of religious conviction, will find no favour. They will look for and rightfully demand an honest application of the principles we have avowed. We admit their title to do so, and have no intention to forfeit their confidence. The question to which we now allude is imminent, and its bearings are extensive and most important. It involves principles of the highest order, brings up the history of many past generations, opens anew to public observation the enormities of the system hitherto maintained, and directly affects the most sacred and permanent interests of the people. In this view of the subject we must be excused, if we recur to it frequently, and dwell on it at some length. It claims reiteration, and there is no time to lose in preparing the public mind for what awaits us. The corn-law question having been settled, that of the church is obviously destined to engage public attention. It cannot fail to do so. Events have been moving in this direction for some years past. Old errors have been in the course of relinquishment, truth has obtained a wider currency, the reasonings which have been successful against one monopoly are felt to be applicable, with augmented force, to another; and even the pecuniary interests of landlords are beginning to be identified with a readjustment of ecclesiastical property. The signs of the times are in this respect distinct and indubitable. He who runs may read, and whatever opinions men may hold as to the result of the struggle, all parties are united in judgment that the church system is about to undergo a searching ordeal.
Equally clear are the indications that the first stage of this great controversy will respect the Irish church. Opinion has been gathering force against it for many generations past. Churchmen have felt that silence was their wisdom; and statesmen of all classes, conservative, whig, and radical, have been compelled to admit that it was a disgraceful and pernicious anomaly. The earth is covered with ecclesiastical institutions. They have sprung up everywhere from the universal tendency of our nature to formalism and secularity. In the old and in the new world, in Catholic and in Protestant countries, under the despotism of Russia and the republicanism of Switzerland, they have been alike visible. Yet, in no case, and at no period, has an analogous instance to that of the Irish church been exhibited. Let the records of all nations be ransacked, and the most diligent of our historical students will fail to discover a parallel case. Instances may indeed be adduced, of the religious rites of a conqueror being forced on the conquered; the sword has often been used to propagate the faith ; confiscation, imprisonment, and death, have been the agencies employed to coerce a reluctant people, and the outward conformity thus induced has been lauded as national conversion :—but where is the parallel to Ireland ? In what region, amongst what people, civilized or barbarous, do we find a richly endowed establishment, whose dignitaries rank with nobles, whilst its altars are attended by less than one-eighth of the people ?—The church of a few, exacting its unrighteous claims from the reluctant many, who are unbelievers in its creed, hostile to its worship, and bitterly incensed against its clergy. This is the case of Ireland, a portion, be it remembered, of our own empire, lying at our very door, known to us all, and seen day by day.
And it has been so for generations past. The anomaly has been continually growing; for a retributory providence working by its general laws has diminished the number of the oppressors, and multiplied that of the oppressed. The condition of things in Ireland has not been the feature of a year or of a generation. It has not been the characteristic of a people in a state of transition, to whom it was difficult to secure an immediate participation in just and equal laws. Had this been the case, some excuse might have been found, some extenuation have been urged. The accidents of the age, the limits to human power, the overwhelming necessity of the case might have been pleaded, and we should possibly have felt it difficult to pronounce a simple condemnation. The temporary would, in such case, have been an exception to the permanent; the transition state would have stood out in contrast with that to which it led, and in its very sadness have exhibited in yet brighter colours the glory and the blessedness of what followed. Would that it had been so. It would be well for the honour of England if such had been the case. We might then have looked up unabashed amongst the nations. Our statesmen would have escaped many perplexities, our religion have been spared much reproach. The Celt and the Saxon might have united in good brotherhood, and worshipped at the same common altar. Far different, however, have been the facts, and the result is seen and known by all.
At length, however, there is something like unanimity in one point pertaining to Ireland. This, in itself, is significant of change, and holds out the prospect of good. We must not, however, overrate it, but by a steady effort seek to ascertain its worth, and the measure of the good it promises. The conviction, then, is spreading wide, and has been diffused through all classes, that the Irish ecclesiastical system has hitherto been wrong, essentially vicious, and productive only of social disquietude and of political agitation. This conviction exists in very various degrees. In some cases it respects the social; in some, the political; and in others, the religious bearings of past legislation; but, in all instances, the past is acknowledged to have been a failure, so radical and entire, as to operate rather as a warning than as a guide. So far, the thoughtful and candid of all parties are one, and there is much gained in the existence of such a conviction. It betokens, at least, the breaking up of the old and vicious system; and if the future be not seen with equal clearness, if the perception of what is due to the righteousness of the case be not as clear as the conviction of past injustice, we need not wonder. It is what we might have expected, what history has often told us, what the prejudices, and passions, and partial knowledge of our nature render almost inevitable. It has uniformly been so. The perpetrators of wrong become the victims of errors, from which it is in the last degree difficult to extricate them. They grope and stumble as in the dark, long after they are sensible of the folly of their ways. They condemn the past, its selfishness, injustice, and tyranny, and are yet for a time, utterly unequal to the correc
tion of its errors, or the substitution of a course more commensurate with the claims of righteousness and truth. In politics, as in morals, the effects of vice remain, long after the vicious practice is abandoned. Men's judgments are beclouded, their prejudices and party interest are bound up with the system they have administered, and a second wrong is therefore often perpetrated, in the effort, and as the means, of extricating themselves from the first. We need not wonder that it should be so. God's providence is inexorable, and the laws by which it works are clearly to be traced. It would not comport with the order of the moral world, that the workers of folly and of crime, even where they repent of their misdeeds, should wholly escape from punishment. The reverse of this is visible throughout the history of our world, and we have no ground to expect that the vices and blunders of statesmen should be an exemption. · An illustration of this principle was recently furnished in the Maynooth Endowment Bill. Much of the reasoning adduced in its defence, was founded on a sophism which could have had no existence, had not wrong been previously perpetrated, and which never would have been urged, had our senators possessed as enlightened a view of what was right, as they had a deep conviction of what had been wrong. The language used, at least by the more liberal members of the Commons' House, betokened an advanced stage of conviction, a mental state partially illumined by the rays of truth, a sense of wrong, and a solici. tude to offer reparation. So far they were right; and while we condemn their decision, we see in their language and arguments encouragement for hope. Protestant ascendancy was abandondoned; the 'No Popery' cry was contemptuously rejected; the hideous anomaly of maintaining the church of the rich, and those few in number, by the coerced contributions of nearly 8,000,000, was reprobated and held up to scorn. This was as it should be; and we receive and treasure up these facts, in the conviction that a time is coming when they will do us important service. They have cleared the ground, have removed much rubbish out of the way, and will not be forgotten when the real struggle comes. It is true that the men who talked thus, and who were loudest in their condemnation of the past, were the most inconsistent in their votes. Seeing so much of truth they ought to have apprehended more; and had they done so, they would have devised some other mode of doing justice to the Irish Catholic, than by perpetrating a wrong on the whole Protestant population of the empire. But their eyes were only partially opened. The glaring wickedness of the Irish church stared them in the face, and they hailed the measure of Sir Robert Peel as an instalment of an admitted debt. It would