IT might serve a good purpose if some of the well-meaning.indi- viduals who directly or indirectly patronize the Nonintrusion agi- tation in Scotland would ask themselves the questions—What is religion ? Is all this turmoil calculated to promote religion ? Some have called religion a branch of morals, and others have maintained that morals are only a part of religion ; but the majority seem agreed that religion is the state of mind in which men seek to view all their relations to the external world, and all the relations of human society, as links in a great chain connecting this universe and its inhabitants with the Creator, and, proceeding from this comprehensive view, seek to regulate their temper and their actions by a uniform reference to their dependent position as units in the system of creation.
Religious systems are valuable in proportion as they convey correct notions of the relations of men among themselves and to their Maker, and facilitate the bringing of their disciples into a religious frame of mind. The church—the religious organization of society—is valuable in proportion as it is an efficient engine for diffusing and confirming habitual religious impressions.
Formal regulations, and assemblies for the purpose of making and enforcing them, are indispensable to the existence of the church as an organized society. But they are only useful as means to an end; that end being the promotion of a religious state of mind among all the members of the church. As soon as church courts and church jurisprudence are allowed to become the main object of interest, they resemble the dry husks upon which the prodigal son was fed in his desolate exile—they are the lifeless framework from which vital religion has departed.
The error of regarding means as an end, is one to which the human mind is peculiarly liable in every field of its active exertion. It is an error the destructive influence of which has been felt by churches in every age. It is difficult to contemplate the spectacle of men incessantly engaged in the discussion of legal forms in church courts and before civil tribunals—to watch them constantly on the move from one end of the kingdom to the other, everywhere busied in the management of public meetings and the organization of permanent affiliated committees—without feeling that such in- cessant attention to forms leaves little time for minding the weightier matters of the law. And the doubts hence arising are strengthened into certainties when we mark the intemperate vitu- perative language of the disputants, and the reckless manner in which they intrude their controversies into the most solemn rites of the church, making even the dispensation of the sacraments positions to be taken up for the purpose of galling their opponents. Where such things occur, it is clear that there must be, on the most charitable view of the transactions, strong self-deception at work. Men accustomed to keep the idea of a praise-desiring Deity continually in mind, are too apt to give into the delusion of per- suading themselves that they do things for God's sake which they do only to gratify their own inclinations. The fallacy under which some theologians of ancient times palliated their indulgence of re- sentment—that they were bound to forgive their own enemies, but not the enemies of God—has not become obsolete even in our day. Men who are of an active and meddling disposition betake them- selves in ordinary cases to politics, but when they are of a "serious" turn of mind, they make it church-politics, for the sake of gratify- ing themselves and earning heaven at the same time.
It is a matter of far inferior consequence, yet not entirely to be overlooked, that the exaggerated emphasis, and what we can scarcely call by any other name than profane language, in which the Nonintresion agitators in Scotland habitually indulge, is calcu- lated to awaken suspicions of their sincerity. Uneducated men— men of strong passions and deficient intellectual culture, who have read their Bible and nothing else—necessarily struggle to express Themselves by figurative and sometimes forced applications of the beautiful and nervous language of the Scriptures. In an old Fifth Monarchy man or in a modern Ranter, the sincerity and earnestness of purpose which speak out through this uncouth language help to reconcile us to what is otherwise startling in the incongruous blend- ing of the awful and the vulgar. But when we hear men whose education has given them the power of expressing simple matters in simple language adopting the peculiar phraseology of Ranters and Fifth Monarchy men, we feel that it is affectation—that they are acting a part. It might do some of these gentlemen good to .read Tartuffe. We do not mean to insinuate that they are Tar- tuffes—if they were, the lesson would be thrown away—but that they would, if honest men, be startled to find how much of the language and deportment of that arch-hypocrite they had uncon- sciously adopted.
The manner in which the Vetoists, Nonintrusionists, or what- ever they please to call themselves, are carrying on their contro- versy in Scotland, seriously endangers the existence of their church, and the interests of religion.