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boast ourselves of our title to the greatest wisdom, as living when the world is matured, and constituting its manhood, and yet should throw off the very means and advantages which could give us this right. The old man is wiser than the young man, by living according to the maxims and corrections that his experience has taught him. But we condemn the maxims as vain and childish, and reject the experience; yet we claim the fruits of it.* We claim that the experience of this one generation is sufficient, and act upon it, and thereby put ourselves in the position of the first generations,-the very childhood of the world; for they too could think for themselves even then, and reason upon their little gleanings of knowledge, which were their toys, and build their plaything towers and castles. We boast that the world is again in its infancy; it is our delight and triumph to think that we are beginning a new career of science and improvement which is to lead us on to perfection. This is the world's Second-Childhood.
The rest of the principles which characterize our modern policy and philosophy, are all of the same nature,-shallow, conceited, exclusive, tyrannical. Several of them require a particular analysis ; and the above chosen subjects require to be more fully exhibited. I shall conclude this general view and opinion of them
Nothing is more characteristic than the present practice of founding a report, full of conclusions of triumph and success, upon a single year's or even a six months' experience; a new prison or workhouse system; a new school system; a home colony. It is in simple truth just like the reasoning and conclusions and pride and positiveness of children.--Exs. 1st Rep. on Parkhurst Prison-Norwood SchoolsNew Poor Law Reports, &c.
with the support of Niebuhr’s judgment, whose “high admiration of England had turned to mistrust if not to aversion.” In his opinion, all was disorganized, degenerate, verging to decay and ruin. The very rapid fall of England, he says, is a very remarkable and melancholy phenomenon; it is a deathly sickness without remedy. I
compare the English of the present day,” he says, “ to the Romans of the third century after Christ.”
In all this he premised the still greater fall and degradation of the rest of Christendom. He had elsewhere spoken of the deep decline of religion in Europe; from which he at that time excepted England. Catholic countries,” he said, “ the priesthood is dying out. We have the name and the form, with a general dull consciousness that all is not right; every one is uncomfortable; we feel like ghosts in a living body.”*
I shall proceed to show, in the next Essay, that England has no claim to boast itself against the continent in respect of the warmth and fulness, whatever it may have in respect of the purity, of its religion.
* Quarterly Review, No. 132, p. 556, 560.
DECLINE OF RELIGION IN ENGLAND.
IN THE GOVERNMENT-IN THE LEGAL AND MERCANTILE WORLD
IN THE HABITS OF PRIVATE LIFE.
If England be the stronghold of religion in the world, it is important for us to ascertain the real measure of it; and whether it is an increasing or declining principle, and whether it exercises a growing or a decreasing influence in human affairs, private and political. We must not be deceived by any very recent change, and any movement which has been made within our own late experience, however rapid, into a belief that we have gone beyond all former times in religious reverence; or even have recovered all the ground that we may have lost in the course of ages : any more than the increased contributions towards church building is sufficient to prove that we equal the liberality of our ancestors, when they furnished the whole land, in town as well as country, with its complement of churches, adequate and ample in size, and costly in style and execution, out of their narrow resources.
Formerly people built chapels and altars, and founded churches and religious houses, on occasions of any signal deliverance, and both town and country were fully furnished with places of worship. Now, not only
are churches insufficient in number, in the newly built towns, but we are discovering that they are too numerous in the old ones. Two churches were lately taken down in the neighbourhood of the Bank of England. Both have given place to mercantile offices. This practice began at the Reformation. Three churches and convents were taken down to give room for Somerset House in the reign of Edward VI.
The same cause is progressing now in the rest of Europe. The following is announced under the head of Spanish Improvements. “ Madrid. Upwards of thirty huge convents have been within the last four years pulled down to make room for elegant rows of houses, bazaars, galeries, markets, and squares, with trees in the centre."* An account of similar spoliations of church property at Rome is contained in Froude's Remains. The same is going on in Switzerland. In London, a church tower has given place to one angle of the New Royal Exchange.
But there is a general impression that we are continually improving, and have always been improving, in religious respect and observance, from the earliest times. It is my intention to show that this is not the case; that we have a long arrear to make up
before we can begin to talk of improvement; and there is little likelihood of this being done, if we already begin with self-congratulation and boastfulness. This is a subject of evidence, and of simple history.
The influence of the clergy in government must have been greater when the judges and ministers of the
* Mechanic's Mag. No. 886, p. 192.
crown were ecclesiastics, and the greater part of the House of Lords, at that time the branch of the legislature which had the chief influence, were bishops and abbots. At the time of the Reformation, Henry VIII. abolished and deposed twenty-eight priors and abbots who had seats in the House of Peers. The whole number of lay peers at that time was thirty-six; of spiritual peers forty-nine ;* so that the ecclesiastical bore to the lay power, in that house, the proportion of four to three, without reckoning the comparative weight and preponderance of personal influence.
I use this vast curtailment of the influence of the clergy as a fact, not an accusation. The cause may have been good or bad, but the fact remains the same; and the effect has been corresponding. In those times the law terms, or periods for business, were appointed so as to correspond with the vacations from religious fasts and festivals, the observance of which was deemed of first importance; and acts of parliament used to commence with religious expression, and confession that all government was from God. Now that the clerical influence is depressed, and is expelled from the legal profession, and almost from the legislature, the current practice is most opposite; whether it proceed from this cause, or any other, or be said to be fortuitous.+
• Henry VII, had only twenty-eight temporal peers, and Henry VIII. but thirty-six, in their first parliaments ; Charles II., 154; in 1841, there were about 450.-As many as fifty-six spiritual peers once sat, in Edward III.'s reign.
† " The act (24 Hen. VIII.), the Statute of Appeals, which took away the jurisdiction of the pope over spiritual causes in this realm, limited the cognizance of spiritual matters to spiritual persons, giving