Establishment This term is applied to the position of that religious denomination in any country which solely or peculiarly enjoys the patronage of the state, and the clergy of which have, in consequence, their several endowments and incomes especially settled and maintained by the Legislature or government. The general tendency of opinion in all countries is now against established churches, and in favor of the voluntary principle for the support of churches. The subject is discussed at length, historically and otherwise, in the article SEE CHURCH AND STATE (2:329). We present here a summary of the arguments on both sides.
I. The partisans for religious establishments observe
1. that they have prevailed universally in every age and nation. The office of prophet, priest and king were united in the same patriarch (Ge 18:19; Ge 17; Ge 21; Ge 14:18). The Jews enjoyed a religious establishment dictated and ordained by God. In turning our attention to the heathen nations, we shall find the same incorporation of religious with civil government. (Ge 47:22; 2Ki 17:27,29). Every one who is at all acquainted with the history of Greece and Rome knows that religion was altogether blended with the policy of the state. The Koran may be considered as the religious creed and civil code of all the Mohammedan tribes. Among the Celts, or the original inhabitants of Europe, the Druids were both their priests and their judges, and their judgment was final. Among the Hindoos the priests and sovereigns are of different tribes or castes, but the priests are superior in rank; and in China the emperor is sovereign pontiff, and presides in all public acts of religion.
2. Again: it is said that. although there is no form of Church government absolutely prescribed in the New Testament, yet from the associating law, on which the Gospel lays so much stress, by the respect for civil government it so earnestly enjoins, and by the practice which followed and finally prevailed, Christians cannot be said to disapprove, but to favor religious establishments.
3. Religious establishments also, it is observed, are founded on the nature of man, and interwoven with all the constituent principles of human society: the knowledge and profession of Christianity cannot be upheld without a clergy; a clergy cannot be supported without a legal provision; and a legal provision for the clergy cannot be constituted without the preference of one sect of Christians to the rest. An established church is most likely to maintain clerical respectability and usefulness by holding out a suitable encouragement to young men to devote themselves early to the service of the Church, and likewise enables them to obtain such knowledge as shall quilify them for the important work.
II. They who reason on the contrary side observe
1. that the patriarchs sustaining civil as well as religious offices is no proof at all that religion was incorporated with the civil government in the sense above referred to, nor is there the least hint of it in the sacred Scriptures. That the case of the Jews can never be considered in point, as they were under a theocracy and a ceremonial dispensation that was to pass away, and consequently not designed to be a model for Christian nations. That, whatever was the practice of heathens in this respect, this forms no argument in favor of that system which is the very opposite to paganism.
2. The Church of Christ is of a spiritual nature, and ought not, yea, cannot in fact be incorporated with the state without sustaining material injury. In the three first and purest ages of Christianity the Church was a stranger to any alliance with temporal powers; and, so far from needing their aid, religion never flourished so much as while they were combined to suppress it.
3. As to the support which Christianity, when united to civil government, yields to the peace and good order of society, it is observed that this benefit will he derived from it in at least as great a degree without an establishment as with it. Religion, if it have any power, operates on the conscience of men; and, resting solely on the belief of invisible realities, it can derive no weight or solemnity from human sanctions. Human establishments, it is said, have been, and are, productive of the greatest evils, for in this case it is requisite to give the preference to some particular system; and as the magistrate is no better judge of religion than others, the chances are as great of his lending his sanction to the false as the true. The thousands that have been persecuted and suffered in consequence of establishments will always form an argument against them. Under establishments also, it is said, corruption cannot be avoided. Emolument must be attached to the national church, which may be a strong inducement to its ministers to defend it, be it ever so remote from the truth. Thus, also, error becomes permanent; and that set of opinions which happens to prevail when the establishment is formed, continues, in spite of superior light and improvement, to be handed down, without alteration, from age to age. Hence the disagreement between the public creed of the Church and the private sentiments of its ministers.
4. Finally, though all Christians should pay respect to civil magistrates as such, and all magistrates ought to encourage the Church, yet no civil magistrates have any power to establish any particular form of religion binding upon the consciences of the subject; nor are magistrates ever represented in Scripture as officers or rulers of the Church. As Mr. Coleridge observes, the Christian Church is not a kingdom, realm, or state of the world, nor is it an estate of any such kingdom, realm, or state; but it is the appointed opposite to them all collectively — the sustaining, correcting, befriending opposite of the world — the compensating counterforce to the inherent and inevitable evils and defects of the state as a state, and without reference to its better or worse construction as a particular state; while, whatever is beneficent and humanizing in the aims, tendencies, and proper objects of the state, it collects in itself as in a focus, to radiate them back in a higher quality; or, to change the metaphor, it completes and strengthens the edifice of the state, without interference or commixture, in the mere act of laying and securing its own foundations. And for these services the Church of Christ asks of the state neither wages nor dignities; she asks only protection, and to be let alone. These, indeed, she demands; but even these only on the ground that there is nothing in her constitution nor in her discipline inconsistent with the interests of the state; nothing resistant or impedimental to the state in the exercise of its rightful powers, in the fulfillment of its appropriate duties, or in the effectuation of its legitimate objects.
5. As to the provision made for the clergy, this may be done without an establishment, as matter of fact shows in hundreds of instances in the Dissenting and Methodist churches in England, and universally by all churches in America. Indeed, the question of the value of the voluntary principle may be considered as finally settled by the experience :of the English and American churches. In England, in 1855, the Established Church had church accommodation for 5,300,000, and all other denominations could seat 4,900,000, making in all church-room for 10,200,000 of the population. in the United States there were church accommodation in 1850 for 14,00,00000, and it is computed by Dr. Baird (Religion in America) that there must be altogether far more than one minister for each 900 inhabitants. In England they have an establishment of untold wealth. For centuries they have been accumulating edifices for worship the most costly and durable that the world knows, and yet the United States, without any aid from the government, seats a larger proportion of the inhabitants in houses of worship, and raises $25,000,000 annually for religious benevolence. That which has been the cause of this superior success in America is the more perfect action of the voluntary principle. Even in England this principle has worked in the same manner. Fifty years ago the population of that country was less than half what it now is. Then the Church of England could seat 4,000,000, now 5,300,000. But at that time the Dissenters could seat only one fifth of the numbers they can at present. In America the population has doubled itself five or six times since the Revolution, and yet then there was but about one minister to every 2000 inhabitants, now there is one to every 1000. See Warburton, Alliance between Church and State; Christie, Essay on Establishments; Paley, Mor. Philippians 5:2, c. 10; Bp. Law, Theory of Religion; Watts,
Civil Power in Things Sacred, third volume of his Works; Hall, Liberty of the Press, section 5:; Conder, Protestant Nonconformity; Baird, Religion in America (N.Y. 1856, 8vo); and art. SEE CHURCH AND STATE.