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theirs; but their infatuated policy has wrought a change in the 'views and sympathies of our people which no dissenting agency could have effected for years.
We now return to the Conference, to notice that feature of its procedure to which we have already adverted. The issue of the third reading of the Maynooth bill was foreknown. It took no one by surprise. The members were committed by the votes they had previously given; and various motives, which we need not specify, held them to their course. The electoral resolutions submitted to the Conference were drawn up in anticipation of the result since realised, and their cordial adoption is an earnest of what the next election will show. An extended discussion took place on one clause of the first of these resolutions, which it was finally agreed to omit, in order to secure unanimity. We are perfectly satisfied with them as they stand, and place them on record, in their adopted form, as one of the most significant and cheering signs of the times :
• That this Conference view with deep regret and apprehension the indifference shown by members of the Commons' House to the petitions of the people against the Maynooth Endowment Bill, and regard such indifference as subversive of the representative system, and a clear indication of the want of harmony between the members of that House and the British people. That they further regard the ignorance displayed of the nature of religious liberty, and the violence done to religious conviction, by the votes given; as disqualifying many members from being returned as the future representatives of Protestant Dissenters.
• That this Conference, impressed with the danger accruing to religious liberty, from the ignorance and unfaithfulness of its professed friends in the House of Commons, with a few honourable exceptions, earnestly, and solemnly counsel the Protestant Dissenting portion of the constituencies of the empire, immediately to organise themselves in their respective localities, with a view of seeing to the registration of voters, and of adopting all such other measures as shall facilitate the return, at the next general election, of men who combine with liberality of political sentiments a thorough knowledge of, and earnest attachment to, our distinctive ecclesiastical principle of opposition to all State Churches.'
Our duty would be ill discharged if we did not with all possible earnestness invite to these resolutions the immediate, energetic, and practical, attention of the protestant dissenting constituencies of the empire. The men whose names are found in the majority of the 21st of May are not worthy representatives of protestant dissenters. We know, and on other accounts admire, some of them, but their faithlessness on this point is an unpardonable sin, for which nothing short of a public and satis
factory repentance can atone. To have invaded afresh the ark of religious liberty, to have slighted so far and so recklessly our religious convictions as to lay us under tribute for the support of another ecclesiastical institute, thus doing violence to conscience and insulting religion itself, is an offence which no political partizanship must be permitted to palliate. Our principles, if of importance at all, are of prime importance, and must not be overlaid by any considerations of what nature soever. Either let us abandon them altogether, or carry them out to their legitimate issues. If the existence of a state church system be the greatest evil, as we verily believe it is, existing amongst us, if it do more than any thing else to debase the religion of the land, if its very life blood be polluted, and all its genuine tendencies be towards secularity and scepticism, then we affirm that it is our duty, our urgent, though in many cases, self-denying duty, to refuse our electoral support to all candidates who give to this system their parliamentary support. To send men into the Commons' House whose legislative influence will be exerted against the practical adoption of our ecclesiastical views, is to give the whole weight of our electoral support to a system which we regard as abhorrent from the mind of God, and fearfully destructive of the souls of men. The question of degree may be admitted in other cases without our integrity being impugned. As complete suffragists, for instance, we may honestly, in the absence of a candidate of our own sentiments, vote for the man who advocates the largest extension of the electoral body, as by doing so we shall be gaining an instalment at least of our claim, and be contributing, so far, to the right. But the case is vastly different when our vote is solicited on behalf of one who avows himself an establishment man; or, in the absence of this, who is obviously bent on giving to the existing system the full benefit of his support. To record a vote on behalf of such, on the ground of political affinities, is to sacrifice the religious to the secular, to invest with senatorial power—the greatest we can confer—for reasons purely earthly, the defender and advocate of the system which we believe to be an impersonation of the Man of Sin, an awful engine of spiritual delusion and death. The question of degree does not operate here. Men's votes will be given for or against the system. They will be its defenders or its assailants; and if the former, are disqualified for receiving the support of protestant dissenters.
But it is urged in objection to our views, that by taking the ground we advocate, the liberal party will be weakened, and the return to parliament of conservatives be facilitated. We are not disposed to evade this objection. It has some force, and much more plausibility, and deserves to be seriously
VOL. XVII. E. E. E.
weighed. Admitting for a moment the fact assumed, we should nevertheless be prepared to abide by our views. Consistency on the part of British voluntaries is of much greater importance than party triumphs, while the clear and forcible exhibition of our principles which such a course would supply, could not fail—whatever temporary outcry might be raised -to attract towards them the more considerate and earnest attention of the public mind. Our fellow-countrymen, astonished it may be, at first, would begin to appreciate our honesty; and, from the strength of conviction betokened by our conduct, would learn to respect and understand us.
Would we be strong,' remarks a Journalist, to whom the cause of Voluntaryism is deeply indebted, 'we must stand upon ground of our own choosing, and refuse to move from it, whether for friend or foe. Politicians will soon come up to our mark, when they are practically convinced that we will not come down to theirs. They are far more dependent upon us, than we upon them. We, without them, should be incalculably better off than we now are-they, without us, would sink into insignificance. Their whole importance is derived from our hesitation-they suck strength out of our weakness. Trooping at their heels, we shall never be above a single march ahead of toryism-and when we most need their belp we shall be most certain of being betrayed. Look at the records of the existing parliament. Wherein has liberalism assisted us! In what respect has it earned our confidence ? In regard to what great measures of state policy has it shown its superiority to modern conservacism? What inducement can it offer us to forego our own demands at the next general election ? And if, adopting a miserable expediency, we again defer to it, what one good result will the country be likely to gain by our subserviency?
The time has fully come for Dissenters to play their part with resolute determination. Hitherto, they have been but counters in the hands of others-benceforth, they must set a due value on themselves. And whenever, indifferent to the fate of factions, both of wbich are opposed to them, they are bold enough to do this-whenever they take their own affairs into their hands, and declare that come wbat may, they will fight the battle of their principles in the registration court, on the hustings, and at the poll-booth, then, and not till then, will they be respected by the legislature.'Nonconformist, May 21st.
But we are not disposed to admit the conclusion on which the whole force of the objection in question rests. Some few elections might, perhaps, at first be lost. The Whig leaders of the liberal party, underrating our electoral strength, would probably refuse us a due weight in the representation, and our political oppo. nents would promptly take advantage of the division consequent thereon, to carry their candidates. This might happen in a few
places, and for a short time, but the evil would speedily remedy itself. The lesson though painful, would be salutary to our po. litical associates. They would learn the necessity of deferring to our wishes, and, instead of hazarding the repetition of defeat, would allow our chosen men to enter the Commons' House. Temporary loss would in such case be ultimate gain. A reconstruction of parties, so obviously needed by the requirements of our age, would be accelerated, and the imperishable principles on which our opposition to state churches is based, would become the rallying point of the most enlightened, compact and energetic body which has ever influenced the counsels of our nation. There is a vast amount of electoral influence afloat in society, which would speedily gather round such a party. The masses are with us, the common sense and common honesty of the people are on our side. As yet, however, they hesitate, and well they may, for we fail to impress them with the conviction of our being thoroughly in earnest. But let them once see the evidences of our faith, let them be made to feel that we rely on our principles with a confidence which never falters, and they will speedily be at our side to cheer on and aid our labours.
But what, it is natural to ask, should protestant dissenters do? What is their special present vocation, what the measures they should adopt, the course of action on which they should enter? To these enquiries a reply is rendered, by the second of the electoral resolutions adopted by the conference. There are two points to which this resolution specially adverts, the registration of voters, and the return of men who combine, with liberality of political sentiments, a thorough knowledge of, and earnest attachment to, our distinctive ecclesiastical principle of opposition to all state churches. For the attainment of these objects, local organization is recommended, and we must take leave before closing our remarks to reiterate this counsel. A large number of dissenters are yet unregistered. This has resulted from various causes to which we need not now advert. Immediate steps should be taken in every county, city, and borough, to secure the registration of all qualified persons; and we are convinced that if this be duly attended to, it will go far to determine many future elections. County freeholds should also be looked to, and a disposition to secure them be fostered amongst our people. The Anti-Corn Law League has shewn what may be done in the latter case; and, it will be strange indeed, if the religious men of the empire cannot be aroused to equal zeal and sagacity in the pursuit of their yet nobler end.
But it is alleged that our great difficulty is to find suitable candidates. This was adverted to by several speakers in the Conference, and it obviously calls for the earliest and gravest
consideration. If the case be as some assume, we had better at once relinquish our efforts, and resign ourselves to despair. The more private inculcation of our views is all which, in such case, we can wisely attempt; and the largest sphere of usefulness, the theatre on which most might, under other circumstances, be done for the truth of God, must be consigned over to those who impeach his supremacy and secularize his church. But is the case so? Are we driven to this alternative? Let us look at the matter calmly, and as wise men should. The difficulty affirmed to exist arises, of course, from the view taken of the qualifications held to be essential in a parliamentary representative. We have been accustomed to suppose that an independent fortune, or, as it is termed, ‘a large stake” in the country, is one of these; and the difficulty apprehended is to find such in combination with an intelligent and earnest advocacy of our principles. We admit, at once, that we have few, very few, such men; and that, if this opinion be held to, we must forego the hope of a parliamentary representative of our sentiments. But the question recurs—and we press it with all seriousness on our readers—whether this supposition be a correct one? We believe it to be erroneous, a delusion which has grown out of ouraristocratical pre-possessions, and which must be got rid of, if our duty to the commonwealth and to religious freedom is to be discharged. We look to a parliamentary representation of dissenting principles as important, mainly with a view to the opportunity it would afford of instructing the nation in the nature and evidences of such principles. The members of the Commons' House speak within the hearing of all, and from a position which commands the attention, whether reluctant or otherwise, of the whole body of the people. The daily, weekly, and monthly press is perpetually employed in sending to the extremities of the civilized globe the things which are uttered in that house; and there is no calculating, therefore, the potency of the words there spoken. Our publications and lectures fail to make an impression on the popular mind, for the very obvious reason, that it is never brought into contact with them. They are read or heard by our own people only, while the debates of parliament are read by the nation at large ; and whatever may be alleged to the contrary, are invested with a power to which no human agency is superior. What we specially need, therefore, is the return of men who know and deeply love our principles, men who are thoroughly earnest in their advocacy, and are capable of giving them fitting utterance. Such men we have: they have been trained amidst us; are acquainted with our habits, our sympathies, and views; have mourned over the apostacy of the land from the truth of God,