Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Warburton's Minor Works

Review of:
1. The Alliance between Church and Slate; or, the Necessity and Equity of an Established Religion and a Test Law demonstrated (by William Warburton).
2. Julian; or, a Discourse concerning the Earthquake and Fiery Eruption which defeated the Emperor's attempt to Rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem (by William Warburton).
3. The Doctrine of Grace; or, the Office and Operations of the Holy Spirit vindicated from the Insults of Infidelity and the Abuses of Fanaticism (by William Warburton).

Warburton’s most important minor works are the Alliance between Church and State, the tract on Julian, and the Doctrine of Grace. Of these, the Alliance between Church and State, which 'demonstrates' the necessity and equity of an established religion and a test law, is by far the most important. It is the most popular and famous treatise of the eighteenth century upon the celebrated subject which it handles; and indeed Lord Macaulay, in his review of Mr. Gladstone's book on the subject, says that up to a certain point he agrees with Warburton, though there is a considerable divergency between them, especially on the subject of a test law.

We cannot agree with Lord Macaulay's view. It seems to us that Warburton is indefinitely inferior, in his whole conception and treatment of the subject, to the great writers whom he wished to correct. The Presbyterians and Roman Catholics were more thoroughgoing, and Hooker and Hobbes were far more statesmanlike and philosophical.

Warburton appears to us to have spun a sort of sham metaphysical theory out of the facts which he had before him in England, and then to have used the theory to justify the facts. He generalises the Church of England as it was in the first third of the eighteenth century, and then declares that pure science shows that it was the very best of all possible churches. The theory, however, was once so famous that it would be well worth examining, even if its author had been a less considerable man, and if his method had been less characteristic of a mode of thought which had considerable popularity during the early part of the last century—the plan, namely, of arguing upon certain abstract ideas the truth of which was supposed to be self-evident, and which were used with as much confidence as the elementary definitions and axioms of geometry.

Samuel Clarke's demonstration of the existence and attributes of God is perhaps the best specimen of this method, and its influence is to be traced, amongst other writers, in Butler. Warburton's works are full of it. Such expressions as 'fit,' 'fitness of things' (which occur in some of Lord Mansfield's judgments), 'nature,' and the like, are characteristic of it; and no doubt its popularity was due principally to the enormous success which had rewarded its employment in its proper sphere by Newton.

In dealing with certain objections to his theory at the end of his book, Warburton notices, amongst others, the objection that it does not agree with fact, upon which he observes: 'A right theory of nature is to be obtained only by pursuing fact, for God is the author of that system; but in a theory of politics, which is an artificial system, to follow fact is no certain way to truth, because man is the author of that system. Abstract ideas and their general relations are the guides that lead us into truth, and fact hath with good reason but a subsidiary use. As therefore the method to be pursued is different, so should the judgment be which is passed upon it; the goodness of the theory being estimated, not according to its agreement with fact, but right reason. In the former case the theory should be regulated by the fact; in the latter, the fact by the theory.'

Such being his view of the method proper for such inquiries, he sets out to investigate the relations between Church and State by deducing from right reason and abstract ideas the legitimate functions of each—a process which comes, in fact, to stating in general terms the truth of that which he is afterwards going to state in specific terms.

He begins, like Hobbes, with describing the state of nature, which he says would have been very much what Hobbes represented it to be, 'was it not for the restraining principle of religion,' which, however, 'could not operate with sufficient efficacy . . . for want of a common arbiter.' The result of this was 'endless jar,' which comes to much the same as Hobbes's state of war.

Society was invented as a remedy for this, but was found to be inefficient for a variety of reasons. It could only punish, and that for open transgressions. It could not enforce duties of imperfect obligation, though it increased the number of such duties, and also increased the wants which are the springs of human action. The reason why society could not reward was that, 'in entering into society, it was stipulated between the magistrate and people that protection and obedience should be reciprocal conditions. When, therefore, a citizen obeys the laws, that debt on society is discharged by the protection it affords him.' No reward is due for obedience, and nothing beyond obedience can be given. On the other hand, it was necessary that disobedience should be followed, not merely by loss of protection, but by punishment, for otherwise society could not subsist. Hence 'it was stipulated that the transgressor should be subject to pecuniary mulcts, corporal castigations, mutilation of members, and capital inflictions.'

Warburton is so precise about the terms of the social contract that one would think it must have been drawn up in the attorney's office at Newark in which he served his articles. Society not only did not, but could not, reward, because it could not judge of men's motives, or 'ever find a fund sufficient for that purpose.' Hence religion had to be called in.

Having begun with this curiously meagre and arbitrary account of the origin of civil society, Warburton goes on to consider its nature. 'To suppose its end the vague purpose of acquiring all possible accidental good is, in politics, a mere solecism.' It must then 'be allowed to have been invented for the attainment of some certain end or ends exclusive of others.' This end is 'security to the temporal liberty and property of man.' Civil society alone could produce this. 'The salvation of souls or the security of man's future happiness' belongs to religion, and civil society has nothing to do with it. The means to this end are 'doctrine and morals, which compose what is called religion in the largest sense of the word.' Hence 'they were the bodies, not the souls, of men of which the magistrate undertook the care. Whatever, therefore, refers to the body is in his jurisdiction; whatever to the soul is not.' Still the civil magistrate could not protect even the body without power; power could be given only by consent, which could be permanently secured only by an oath; and an oath implied a belief in 'the three fundamental principles of natural religion—namely, the being of a God, his providence over human affairs, and the natural essential difference of good and evil.' These three principles, therefore, the civil magistrate was carefully to protect, as they gave to all civil laws a general religious sanction.

The nature and end of religion next come to be considered. Its end is 'to procure the favour of God,' and 'to advance and improve our own intellectual nature.' External worship is essential to this, and external worship implies a creed and profession of it as a term of communion. The object of a religious society is to put these things into order. Hence the religious and the civil society have distinct aims and spheres, each being sovereign in its own.

Their sovereignty is proved thus. If not sovereign, they would be dependent, and this dependency must be either by the law of nature, or else by the law of nations. Now there is no dependency by the law of nature, because that dependency 'is from essence or generation'; whereas here there is an essential difference between the two, and therefore no essential dependency. There is no dependency by the law of nations, for dependency by the law of nations is where, 'one and the same people composing two different societies, the imperium of the one clashes with the imperium of the other.' In that case the less society becomes dependent on the greater, because this is the only way to avoid that great absurdity in politics called imperium in imperio.'

But the civil and religious societies have different ends and means; therefore they cannot meet and cannot clash. The religious society thus constituted 'hath not in and of itself any coercive power of the civil kind,' though it can excommunicate, which the State cannot, because it has nothing to do with the sphere of religious society.

Having thus got his two independent societies, Warburton proceeds to ally them. As civil society can provide only for the body, and religious society only for the soul, the two together can provide for both. Hence the necessity of an alliance. But as each society is sovereign and independent, the alliance must be 'by free convention and mutual compact.' Therefore it was so made.

The motives of the magistrate were to preserve the essence and purity of religion, to improve its influence, and to prevent the mischief which it might do if left alone. Religion without the help of the magistrate would get on, Warburton thinks, very ill, for it will run into superstition and fanaticism which will be reverenced by the people as sanctity; 'but now the civil magistrate being become protector of the Church, and consequently supreme head and director of it, the ministry is much in his power; that mutual dependency between the clergy and people so pernicious to the State being, by means of a settled revenue, broken and destroyed.'

The motive of the Church for the alliance was 'security from all exterior violence,' and this was the only motive. Two others, says Warburton, in a passage which reads like a satire, might be imagined —namely, 'to engage the State to propagate the established religion by force,' and 'to bestow honours, riches, and power upon it' Yet the first of these motives would be unjust, and the second impertinent. 'It is impertinent in a church to aim at riches, honours, powers; because these are things which, as a religious society, she can neither use nor profit by.' The motives of the clergy might in fact be more or less of this kind, 'but the Church as a religious society consists of the whole body of the community, both laity and clergy, and her motive, we say, could not be riches, honours, and power, because they have no natural tendency to promote the ultimate end of this society, salvation of souls, or the immediate end, purity of worship. We conclude, therefore, that the only legitimate motive she could have was security and protection from outward violence.'

We come at last to the terms of the alliance:
1. The Church engaged to help the State to the utmost.
2. The Church gave up its independency to the State, being the weaker of the two.

In consideration of which the Church receives—
1. A public endowment for its ministers.
2. A place for her superior members in the Court of Legislature. As the State is to make laws for the Church, the Church as such should be represented.
3. Ecclesiastical Courts, with coercive authority for the reformation of manners. It is worth notice, by the way, that, in a long investigation of this matter, Warburton takes occasion to pronounce a strong opinion in favour of divorce; 'though the voice of nature and the oracles of God concurred to pronounce in some cases, as in adultery, a divorce,' etc.

The State receives supremacy in matters ecclesiastical, which consists of three branches.
1. No ecclesiastic of the Established Church can exercise his function without the magistrate's approbation and allowance.
2. No convocation, synod, or church assembly hath a right to sit without the express permission of the magistrate; nor, when they do sit by virtue of that permission, to proceed in a judiciary or legislative manner without a special licence for that purpose; nor to impose their acts as authoritative till they have received his confirmation.
3. No member of the Established Church can be excommunicated or expelled the society without the consent and allowance of the magistrate.

After this we are not much surprised to learn that: 'In England alone the original terms of this convention are kept up so exactly that this account of the alliance between Church and State seems rather a copy of the Church and State of England than a theory, as indeed it was, formed solely on the contemplation of nature and the invariable reason of things, and had no further regard to our particular Establishment than as some part of it tended to illustrate these abstract reasonings.'

As for the test law, that is necessary to secure the Church chosen for establishment, as to which, says Warburton, 'if there be more than one at the time of the convention, the State allies itself with the largest.' Otherwise the Dissenters would pull it to pieces. The test law is equitable, because no man has a right to office. If he had such a right, it would not be against the law of nature to abridge it; and even if it were against the law of nature, then the law of nature may be overruled for the public good.

Such is the gist of this celebrated book separated from a good deal of miscellaneous matter, part of which consists of a most characteristic controversy with Rousseau, which is full of wit and vigour, but, in parts, outrageously coarse.

As to the general argument of the book itself, with the author's wonderful machinery about the end of civil government and the end of religion, and dependency by the law of nature, and dependency by the law of nations, and so forth, we need say very little. The whole method appears to us fundamentally wrong. The original compact, the law of nature and nations, the end of civil government, and the rest, are mere fictions, not without their use in certain respects, but altogether misleading when used as Warburton uses them.

His theory is that A, B, C, and D, having formed themselves into a civil society for the prevention of violence, and having also formed themselves into a religious society for the purpose of worship, contracted with themselves, in the capacity of State, to give up to themselves, in that capacity, all the rights which they had conferred on themselves in the capacity of Church, in consideration that, in the capacity of State, they would protect themselves in the capacity of Church, from that very violence, from which it was the object of their associating themselves together in the capacity of State, to protect themselves at all events. Certainly the appetite of the Church for protection from violence would appear to have been perfectly insatiable.

Julian is perhaps even a more singular performance than the Alliance. Its title is 'Julian: or, a Discourse concerning the Earthquake and Fiery Eruption which defeated the Emperor's attempt to Rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem, in which the reality of a divine interposition is shown; the objections to it are answered, and the nature of that evidence which demands the assent of every reasonable man to a miraculous fact is considered and explained.'

The essay is an attempt to establish the truth of the specific miracle in question, and to give, in connection with it, a general theory of miracles. The theory is shortly this: Julian attempted to rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem. His workmen were stopped in their task by fire from heaven, succeeded by a fiery eruption from the excavations, and an earthquake. At the same time there appeared in the air a cross in a circle, and the clothes of the bystanders were marked with crosses.

The greater part of the tract, which fills two hundred quarto pages, is occupied by a minute examination of the evidence on the subject, of which, even if it were at all worth while, it would be difficult to give an account in a short compass. The principal witnesses are Ammianus Marcellinus; some ecclesiastical historians, as Socrates and Sozomenes, who lived long afterwards; Ambrose and Chrysostom, who mention the matter very briefly, and of whom Ambrose was living at a distance; and Gregory Nazianzen, who gives a full account of the matter, and was in the neighbourhood at the time.

The singular part of the matter is not the discussion of their accounts, which is conducted at immense length and with that profusion of minute commentary which is the curse of polemical argument, but the view which Warburton himself arrives at. The fire, he says, was lightning; and, with his usual love of omnifarious learning, he shows 'how a fiery eruption must occasion a previous earthquake, and this earthquake a stormy sky; that air put into a violent motion always produces lightning when it abounds with matter susceptible of inflammation.'

As for the cross in the sky, 'it was neither more nor less than one of those meteoric lights which are not unfrequently seen in solar or lunar halos.' The crosses on the clothes were a natural effect of the lightning, as to which Warburton collects a variety of curious stories of similar phenomena in modern times, where there was no suggestion of a miracle. The eruption from the earth probably proceeded from inflammable matter in the earth where the workmen were digging. Gregory, it seems, made less of the eruption and more of the lightning than Ammianus.

Where then, asks the reader in surprise, was the miracle? Not, says Warburton, where the Fathers thought it was. The halo, the crosses, and the lightning were all natural. The eruption was the true miracle, and the particular miraculous circumstance was that 'the breath of the Lord kindled . . . the mineral and metallic substances' which 'were the native contents of the place from whence the flames issued.' The other circumstances came in as appropriate moral emblems by way of a sort of setting for the miracle; but the true genuine miracle itself was the setting of a supernatural match to the pre-existing sulphur, or whatever it was, just at the moment when a great moral effect would be produced.

Warburton goes at great length into the whole subject and theory of miracles, about which he appears to have had as much private information as he possessed about the terms of the marriage-settlement between the Church and the State. There are three distinct kinds of miracles—those where the laws of nature are suspended or reversed; those in which a new direction is given to the laws of nature; and 'yet a third, compounded of the other two, where the laws of nature are in part arrested and suspended, and in part differently directed.' All these different kinds of miracles have to be criticised on different principles, and by the judicious application of them, we are able to form a very probable conjecture as to the important question whether God created the inflammable elements for the purpose, or used 'those which lay ready stored up' (having been created, we suppose, by some other than divine agency) 'against the day of visitation.'

By reading such speculations, and comparing them with the author's not less grotesque account of the relations of Church and State, we are able to form a notion of the sort of world in which the schoolmen lived. There is something almost sublime in the pedantry of a man who could gravely sit down and spin cobwebs of this sort out of his own brain, with the fullest conviction that he was engaged in a most important avocation, and that he really was arriving at results of lasting importance.

The Doctrine of Grace is a different sort of book from either the Alliance or Julian. It is much less paradoxical, though it has some special paradoxes of its own, if they were worth examining. Its object is to measure out to mankind just that amount of belief in the operations of divine grace on their own souls, and the souls of others, which they must recognise under pain of being infidels, and which they must on no account exceed on pain of being fanatics.

In pursuance of this design, Warburton first attacks Conyers Middleton for having undervalued the miracle of the Day of Pentecost, from which he takes occasion to inquire into the nature of the inspiration of the Bible. He advances upon this subject a strange fast and loose theory which is characteristically intricate and gratuitous. The Bible, he says, is entirely true in important points, but is only partially inspired; which theory, as he observes, 'answers all the ends of a Scripture universally and organically inspired, by producing an unerring rule of faith and manners, and besides obviates all those objections to inspiration which arise from the too high notion of it'—a great convenience, no doubt, yet not exactly a proof of its truth.

After this he proceeds to examine the immediate operations of divine power in producing sensible or mental miracles. As to the sensible miracles, he contrives to find in the passage 'Charity never faileth, but whether there be prophecies they shall fail,' etc.—a proof that miracles were to cease with the first ages of the Church; and he then betakes himself to the really celebrated part of the book, his attack upon Wesley. It certainly is entitled to the praise of being in its way as trenchant and savage an attack upon the Methodists as it was possible to make. It is very like Sydney Smith's well-known article in the Edinburgh Review long afterwards. It is one of those performances which will provide a person, predisposed to attack the Methodists, with proper arms for the purpose, but there is nothing in it which is in the least degree calculated to operate on the minds of the persons who are attacked. It is inconceivable that any single person should ever have been converted to Warburton's or Sydney Smith's way of thinking by such performances.

We have given a sketch of Warburton's minor works because they set his peculiarities in a broader light than his great work. They afford little opportunity for that vigorous mode of handling great masses of knowledge which is the best feature in the Divine Legation. But they forcibly display his love of paradox, his strange intricacy of mind, and the passionate delight which he took in resting his case on some issue so refined and unexpected, that probably not one reader in a hundred ever takes the trouble to understand his meaning properly.

Saturday Review, October 20, 1866.

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