Page:History of Freedom.djvu/301
GOLDWIN SMITH'S IRISH HISTORY
Denmark. This is as natural and inevitable in a country where the whole population is of one religion, as it is artificial and unjust in a country where no sort of religious unity prevails, and where such a law might compel the sovereign to be of the religion of the minority.
At any rate, nobody who thinks it reasonable that any prince abandoning the Established Church should forfeit the English throne, can complain of a law which compelled the sovereign to be of the religion, not of a majority, but of the whole of his subjects. The idea of the Pope stepping between a State and the allegiance of its subjects is a mere misapprehension. The instrument of his authority is the law, and the law resides in the State. The Pope could intervene, therefore, only between the State and the occupant of the throne; and his intervention suspended, not the duty of obeying, but the right of governing. The line on which his sentence ran separated, not the subjects from the State, but the sovereign from the other authorities. It was addressed to the nation politically organised against the head of the organism, not to the mass of individual subjects against the constituted authorities. That such a power was inconsistent with the modern notion of sovereignty is true; but it is also true that this notion is as much at variance with the nature of ecclesiastical authority as with civil liberty. The Roman maxim, princeps legibus solutus, could not be admitted by the Church; and an absolute prince could not properly be invested in her eyes with the sanctity of authority, or protected by the duty of submission. A moral, and à fortiori a spiritual, authority moves and lives only in an atmosphere of freedom.There are, however, two things to be considered in explanation of the error into which our author and so many others have fallen. Law follows life, but not with an equal pace. There is a time when it ceases to correspond to the existing order of things, and meets an invincible obstacle in a new society. The exercise of the mediæval authority of the Popes was founded on the