9 FEBRUARY 1895, Page 9


WE have never felt any sympathy with the Society which calls itself the 'Liberation Society,"—or, more fully, the "Society for the Liberation of Religion from.State Patronage and Control." It has always seemed to us that the real, and perhaps not unnatural, jealousy felt by other religious bodies of the National Church was the true root of that Society ; and that when Mr. Allan succeeded in changing its name from the Anti- State Church Society to the more elaborate title which we have given above, he only succeeded in putting a coat of whitewash on a movement which belongs rather te those which take their origin in natural passions, and in disguising it as one predominantly disinterested and even benevolent. The new title describes rather the aim which voluntary religious Societies wish to keep in view, than that which actually stimulates their zeal for disestablishing and disendowing the National Church. It is a different thing altogether, when, as in the case of the Irish Church, the property of such a Church actually originated with the gifts of persons holding the creed of the majority of the people, and was transferred to persons of the creed of a very small minority, and we always held that it would have been far more just to restore the bulk of the property to the old creed, instead of secularising it as Mr. Glad- stone actually did. In the ease of Wales, there is little or no reason to suppose that the property of the Church was ever really gained from people who disagreed with the doctrines now professed by the National Church, and who would never have given it to that Church; and there is good reason to think that the Disendowment proposed will be a very unjust, and not practically a just. one.

Nevertheless, we cannot at all regard a clergymaa vibe takes the side of the now by no means unpopular move- ment for stripping yourself of whatever property you have which other people covet, as thereby disqualified for being a very good religious teacher, and for the duty of expressing in the Upper House of Legislature, the sympathies entertained by a not insignificant section of the High Church party for this public act of asceticism and self-denying benevolence. And we cannot there- fore at all sympathise with the displeasure felt by many of the Unionist party for the appointment of Dr. Percival to the See of Hereford. If, indeed, the appointment were made wholly for that reason, we should greatly condemn so political a motive for the choice of a religious leader. Whatever else is right, it" cannot be right to let a political motive overpower the religious motives for what ought to be a religious act. But so far as we know, nothing can be farther from the truth than that Dr. Percival is not well fitted to stir up the religious feelings of our not too enthusiastic people. He is a man of no little note in the Church, and especially of no little chivalry. His knight-errantry is at least as conspicuous as his scholarship and his power of organisa- tion. His rather imprudent, and as we thank, unwise and mistaken, course in identifying himself as head-master of a great school with the party pledged to the unpopular policy of disendowing a considerable section of the National Church, and so stirring up an eager political controversy among the boys, was rash and not to be com- mended, but it was courageous and generous in its motive.

He would not hold his tongue, though his refusal to hold his tongue made him for a time decidedly unpopular among the parents of the boys whom he had to educate. This was the course of a rash man, but rashness is not the prevailing weakness of our sober arid somewhat too prudent Establishment. There is no danger as yet of the self.denying party in that Establishment getting the upper hand and giving away its property just to show that it is not possessed by selfish motives. We entirely believe in the gallantry and zeal of Dr.

Percival, and think that there is a certain justice in adding to the rank of the Bishops a single member who will dissent from the at present unanimous disapproval of the policy of the present Government towards the Church in Wales. It is one thing to disapprove that policy and quite another to disapprove the addition of one devotee of that policy, who is otherwise a distinguished religious teacher, to the Bench of Bishops. If that were Lord Rosebery's only motive for selecting Dr. Percival, it was a wrong motive. But if he were, as we need not doubt, selected chiefly for his re- ligious power and the success he has had in inspiring his pupils with a certain enthusiasm of reverence, and only partially for his sympathy with the policy of the Government, we hold that Lord Rosebery's choice was entirely justifiable. It is not well to have a Bench of Bishops who are too entirely devoted to the care and dis- tribution of the loaves and fishes. That was the duty of the diaconate, not of the Apostles. The Bench of Bishops will be all the stronger for containing one able man who can express the views of the party who do not hold fast by every shilling to which the Church is at present entitled.

A Unionist is, we think, wise in treating the House of Lords as an Assembly to which you should not feel too predominant a desire to have only men of your own political party added. And this applies especially to the Bench of Bishops, who have already too much of a monopoly of the right to express Conservative convic- tions. We sympathise with their convictions, but we do not sympathise with the wish to banish the opinions of our opponents from the Upper House of Legislature, especially on matters which concern chiefly the religious well-being of the people. The case of the Establishment will be stronger, and not weaker, for confronting frankly the arguments of those who really hold that, in certain sections of the United Kingdom, Establishment is an injustice, and that Home-rule in religious matters is a sort of duty. We have no doubt that Dr. Percival will express that view with a good deal of ability and not a little Ran. But we also think that the Bishop of London and the Bishop of Oxford and the Bishop of Peterbo ouJh will have no difficulty in replying to his argumentr, and showing how certainly they tend to the disintegration and ultimate destruction of one of the greatest institutions which have ennobled and redeemed from utter worldliness the rather worldly genius of the English people. It is the chief weakness of the Bench of Bishops that on subjects of this kind they have been far too unanimous for the purpose of expressing adequately the real mind of their Church. There is, we believe, at present rather a growing party of what we may call Quixotic Disestablishers, Dis- establishers who are so ashamed of seeming to cling to the loaves and fishes that they think more of purging themselves of selfish motives than of the religious interests of the poor in a multitude of English counties and parishes where Disendowment would strip the poor of their best friends. We shall be glad, and not sorry, to see this suspicious unanimity of Conservatism broken in upon by the voice of an able and eloquent prelate who has rushed into the ranks of the Gladstonian Disestab- lishers with a gallantry and ardour that savours more of knight-errantry than of judicial wisdom. And, at all events, we are sure that in Dr. Percival we shall have an advocate of Welsh Disestablishment who will not put the worldly interests of the Welsh people above their religious interests, as too many of the spokes- men of that policy obviously do. Dr. Percival will think of the religious interests of the United Kingdom first, and of their political feelings only afterwards. The predominant note of his teaching will always be Christian.