Read EFFECTS OF RELIGIOUS DISUNION ON COLONIZATION of Leading Articles on Various Subjects , free online book, by Hugh Miller, on ReadCentral.com.

It is well that there should exist amongst the evangelistic churches at least a desire for union. We do not think they will ever be welded into one without much heat and many blows. Popery, with mayhap Infidelity for its assistant, will have first to blow up the coals and ply the hammer; but it is at least something that the various pieces of the broken and shivered Church catholic should be coming into contact, drawn together as if by some strong attractive influence, and that there should be so many attempts made to fit into each other, though with but indifferent success, the rough-edged inflexible fragments. It is much that the attractive influence should exist. Among the many inventions of modern times, a singularly ingenious one has been brought to bear on the smelting of iron. A powerful magnetic current is made to pass in one direction through the furnace, which imparts to each metallic particle a loadstone-like affinity for all the others; and no sooner has the heat set them free, than, instead of sinking, as in the old process, through the molten stony mass to the bottom, solely in effect of their superior gravity a tedious, and in some degree uncertain process they at once get into motion in the line of the current, and unite, in less than half the ordinary time under any other circumstances, into a homogeneous, coherent mass. May we not indulge the expectation of similar results from the magnetic current of attraction, if we may so speak, which has so decidedly begun to flow through the evangelistic churches? True, so long as the little bits remain unmolten, however excellent their quality, they but clash and jangle together, if moved by the influence at all; but should the furnace come to be seven times heated, it will scarce fail to give unity of motion and a prompt coherency to all the genuine metal, however minute, in its present state, the particles into which it is separated, or however stubborn the stony matrices which dissociate these from the other particles, one in their origin and nature, that lie locked up in the sullen fragments around.

Never perhaps was there a time when the great disadvantages of disunion were so pressed in a practical form on the notice of the churches as at the present. It formed the complaint of one of our better English writers considerably more than a century ago, that we had religion enough to make us hate, but not enough to make us love, one another. At that time, however, sects, to employ one of Bacon’s striking phrases, ‘had not so grown to equality’ as now; and storms in the moral world, as in the natural ‘at the equinoxia,’ when night and day are equal, are commonly greatest, adds the philosopher, ‘when things do grow to equality.’ The unestablished Protestant denominations formed in the times of Queen Anne a mere feeble moiety, that could raise no efficient voice against the established religion; and Popery, newly thrust under feet, after a formidable struggle, that threatened to overturn the constitution of the country, had no voice at all. Matters are very different now: things have grown to an equality; night and day, as ’at the equinoxia,’ have become nearly equal; and society can scarce take one step for the general benefit, without experiencing, as a thwarting and arresting influence, the effects of religious difference. Do we regret that the Government of a country such as ours should be practically irreligious in its character? Alas! were every Government functionary in the empire a thoroughly religious man, Government could not act otherwise than it does in not a few instances, just in consequence of our religious differences. Are there millions of the people sinking into brutality and ignorance, and do our rulers originate a scheme of education in their behalf? our religious differences straightway step in to arrest and cripple the design. Are there whole districts of country subjected to famine, and are we roused, both as Britons and as Christians, to contribute of our substance for their relief? our religious differences immediately interfere; and a Church greatly more identified by membership with the sufferers than any other, has to fight a hard battle ere she can be permitted to co-operate in the general cause. Is there a ragged-school scheme originated in the capital, to rescue the neglected perishing young among us from out the very jaws of destruction? forthwith rival institutions start up, on the ground of religious differences, to dwarf one another into inefficiency, like starveling shrubs in a nursery run wild; and projected exertions in the cause of degraded and suffering humanity degenerate into an attack on a benevolent Presbyterian minister, who refuses to accept, from conscientious motives, of a directorship in a Popish institution. This is surely a sad state of things, a state grown very general, and which threatens to become more so; and in a due sense of the weakness for all good which it creates, and of the palpable state of disorganization and decomposition favourable to the growth of every species of evil, physical and moral, which it induces, we recognise at least one of the causes of the general desire for union. To no one circumstance has Rome owed more of its success than to the divisions of the Protestant Church; and great as that success has been in our own country, where, as ’at the equinoxia,’ day and night are fast ‘growing to equality,’ it is but slight compared with what she has experienced in America and the colonies. It is a serious consideration in an age like the present, in which the country looks to emigration for relief from the pressure of a superabundant population, that religion has suffered more in the colonies from its sectarian divisions, than from every other cause put together.

The way in which the mischief comes to be done is easily conceivable. The Protestant emigrants of the country quit it always, with regard to their churchmanship, as a mere undisciplined rabble. The Episcopalian sets sail in the same vessel, and for the same scene of labour, as the Independent the Free Churchman with the Baptist the Methodist with the Original Seceder the Voluntary with the Establishment-man; and they squat down together on contiguous lots, amid the solitude of the forest. Were they all of one communion, there might be scarce any break created in their old habits of church-going and religious instruction. The community, considerable as a whole, though very inconsiderable in its parts when broken up into denominational septs, would have its minister of religion from its first settlement, or almost so; and, from the rapid increase which takes place in all new colonies in congenial countries and climates, the charge of such a minister would be soon a very important one, and adequate to the full development of the energies of a superior man.

But alas for the numerous denominational septs! Years must elapse, in some instances many years, ere few and scattered, and necessarily deprived of every advantage of the territorial system they can procure for themselves religious teachers: they fall gradually, in the interim, out of religious habits, or there rises among them a generation in which these were never formed; and when at length a sept does procure a teacher, generally, from the comparative fewness of their numbers, the extent of district over which they are spread, and the lukewarmness induced among them by their years of deprivation circumstances which make the charge of such a people no very desirable one to a man who can procure aught better, and which have some effect also in rendering their choice in such matters not very discriminating he is frequently of a character little suited to profit them. They succeed too often in procuring not missionaries, nor men such as the ministers of higher standing, that divide the word to the congregations of the mother country, but the country’s mere remainder preachers, who, having failed in making their way into a living at home, seek unwillingly a bit of bread in the unbroken ground of the colonies. The circumstances of Popery as a colonizing religion are in all respects immensely more favourable. For every practical purpose, it is one and united: it is furnished with an army of clergy admirably organized, and set peculiarly loose for movement at the will of the general ecclesiastical body by their law of celibacy. It possesses in prolific Ireland a vast propelling heart, if we may so speak, ever working in sending out the blood of a singularly bigoted Romanism to every quarter of the world. It has already begun to influence the elections of the United States; and should the Papal superstition be destined to live so long, and should its membership continue to increase at the present ratio, there will be as many Papists a century hence in the great valley of the Mississippi, and the tracts adjacent, as are at present in all Europe. In no field in the present day has Rome more decidedly the advantage than in that of colonization; and it is surely a serious consideration that it should owe its successes in such large measure to the divisions of Protestantism.

But these divisions exist, and no amount of regret for the mischief which they occasion will serve to lessen them. We are not disposed to give up a single tenet which we hold as Free Churchmen; and our brother Protestants of the other denominations are, we find, quite as tenacious of their distinctive holdings as ourselves. And so the evils consequent on disunion in infant colonies and settlements-evils which, when once originated, continue to propagate themselves for ages must continue, in cases of promiscuous emigration, to be educed, and Rome to profit by them. We find a vigorous attempt to grapple with the difficulty, by rendering emigration not promiscuous, but select, originated by a branch of the New Zealand Company, which we deem worthy of notice. It is calculated, from the proportion which they bear to the entire population of the country, that from a thousand to fifteen hundred Free Church people emigrate from Scotland every year. A number equal to a large congregation quit it yearly for the colonies; but absorbed among all sorts of people in Canada, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, the United States, Australia, and Southern Africa, etc. etc. these never reappear as congregations, but are subjected, in their scattered, atomic state, to the deteriorating process, religious and educational, to which we have referred as inevitable under that economy of promiscuous emigration unhappily so common in these latter times. In an earlier age the case was different. The Pilgrim Fathers who first planted New England were so much at one in their tenets, that they had no difficulty in making the laws of the colony a foundation on which to erect the platform both of a general church and of an educational institute; and till this day, the character, moral and intellectual, of that part of the States tells of the wisdom of the arrangement. Now why, argue the Company, might not a similar result be produced in the present age, by directing the Free Church portion of the outward stream of emigration, or at least a sufficient part of it, into one locality? If the disastrous effects of division cannot be prevented by reconciling the disagreements of those who already differ, they may be obviated surely, to a large extent, by bringing into juxtaposition those who already agree. And on this simple principle the Company has founded its Free Church colony of Otago. Of course, regarding the secular advantages of the colony, we cannot speak. New Zealand has been long regarded as the Great Britain of the southern hemisphere. It possesses for a European constitution peculiar advantages of climate; the neighbourhood of the settlement, for several hundred miles together, is deserted by the natives; Government is pledged to the appointment of a Royal Commissioner to watch over the interests of Her Majesty’s subjects in connection with the Company, and to afford them protection; the committee for promoting the settlement of the colony includes some of the most respected names in the Free Church; and thus, judged by all the ordinary tests, it seems to promise at least as well as any other resembling field of enterprise open at the present time. But respecting the principles involved in this scheme of colonization, we can speak more directly from the circumstance that we find them recognised as just and good by the General Assembly of our Church. The records of the Assembly of 1845 bear the following deliverance on the subject: ’The General Assembly learn with great pleasure the prospect of the speedy establishment of the Scotch colony of New Edinburgh [now Otago] in New Zealand, consisting of members of the Free Church, and with every security for the colonists being provided with the ordinances of religion and the means of education in connection with this Church. Without expressing any opinion regarding the secular advantages or prospects of the proposed undertaking, the General Assembly highly approve of the principles on which the settlement is proposed to be conducted, in so far as the religious and educational interests of the colonists are concerned; and the Assembly desire to countenance and encourage the association in these respects.’

We have seen the waste of mind which takes place in the colonies of a very highly civilised country adverted to in a rather fanciful and rationalistic connection with the desponding reply of the captive Jews to their spoilers: ’How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?’ Ages, sometimes whole centuries, elapse, remarks the commentator, ere the colonies of even eminently literary nations come to possess poets and fine writers of their own. There is first a struggle for bare existence among the colonists, during which the higher branches of learning are necessarily neglected; and when a better time at length comes, the general mind is found to have acquired, during the struggle, a homely and utilitarian cast, which militates against the right appreciation, and of course the production, of what is excellent. And thus the true divinities of song fail to be sung in a foreign land. There is, we doubt not, truth in the remark, though somewhat quaintly expressed, and somewhat doubtfully derived. The necessities of a colony in its youth, and the peculiar cast of mind which they serve to induce, are certainly not favourable to the development of poetic genius. But there is, alas! another and more scriptural sense in which the ‘Lord’s song’ too often ceases to be sung in a strange land. We have already adverted to the process of deterioration, moral and religious, through which it comes to be silenced; and it is one of the advantages of the Otago scheme, that it makes provision in, we believe, the most effectual way possible, in the present divided state of Protestantism, for preventing a result so deplorable. Youth is an important season, as certainly in colonies as in individuals; and we question whether the characteristic recklessness of Yankeeism in the far west and south may not be legitimately traced to the neglected youthhead of the States in which it is most broadly apparent. The deterioration of a single generation left to run wild may influence for the worse, during whole centuries, the character of a people; and who can predicate what these colonies of the southern hemisphere are yet to become? They may be great nations, influencing for good or evil the destinies of the species in ages of the world when Britain shall have sunk into a subordinate power, or shall have no name save in history. Those records of the past, from which we learn that states and peoples, as certainly as families and individuals, are born and die, and have their times of birth and of burial, may serve to convince us that the melancholy reflection of one of our later poets on this subject is by no means a fanciful one:

’My heart has sighed in secret, when I thought
That the dark tide of time might one day close,
England, o’er thee, as long since it has closed
On Egypt and on Tyre, that ages hence,
From the Pacific’s billowy loneliness,
Whose tract thy daring search revealed, some isle
Might rise, in green-haired beauty eminent,
And like a goddess glittering from the deep,
Hereafter sway the sceptre of domain
From pole to pole; and such as now thou art,
Perhaps New Zealand be. For who can say
What the Omnipotent Eternal One,
That made the world, hath purposed?’

June 16, 1847.