Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/752

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.



chinery what are railroads but machinery? what is wealth but machinery? what are religious organizations but machinery?"[1]

And in pursuance of this conception he instances the desire to get Church-rates abolished and certain restrictions on marriage removed, as proving undue belief in machinery among Dissenters; while his own disbelief in machinery he considers proved by wishing for stronger governmental restraints,[2] by lauding the supervision of an Academy, and by upholding a Church Establishment. I must leave unconsidered the question whether an Academy, if we had one, would authorize this use of language, which makes it seem that voluntary religious agency is machinery and that compulsory religious agency is not machinery. I must pass over, too, Mr. Arnold's comparison of Ecclesiasticism and Nonconformity in respect of the men they have produced. Nor have I space to examine what he says about the mental attitudes of the two. It must suffice to say that, were the occasion fit, it might be shown that his endeavor "to see the object as in itself it really is" has not succeeded much better in this case than in the cases above dealt with. Here I must limit myself to a single criticism.

The trait which in Mr. Arnold's view of Nonconformity seems to me most remarkable is, that in breadth it so little transcends the view of the Nonconformists themselves. The two views greatly differ in one respect—antipathy replaces sympathy; but the two views are not widely unlike in extension. Avoiding that provincialism of thought which he says characterizes Dissenters, I should have expected Mr. Arnold to estimate Dissent, not under its local and temporary aspect, but under its general aspect as a factor in all societies at all times. Though the Nonconformists themselves think of Nonconformity as a phase of Protestantism in England, Mr. Arnold's studies of other nations, other times, and other creeds, would, I should have thought, have led him to regard Nonconformity as a universal power in societies, which has in our time and country its particular embodiment, but which is to be understood only when contemplated in all its other embodiments. The thing is one in spirit and tendency, whether shown among the Jews, or the Greeks—whether in Catholic Europe, or in Protestant England. Wherever there is disagreement with a current belief, no matter what its nature, there is Nonconformity. The open expression of difference, and avowed opposition to that which is authoritatively established, constitutes Dissent, whether the religion be Pagan or Christian, Monotheistic or Polytheistic. The relative attitudes of the dissenter and of those in power are essentially the same in all cases; and in all cases lead to persecution and vituperation. The Greeks who poisoned Socrates were moved by just the same sentiment as the Catholics who burnt Cranmer, and the Protestant Churchmen who imprisoned Bunyan and pelted Wesley. And, while the manifestations of feeling are essentially the same, while the accom-

  1. "Culture and Anarchy," p. 16.
  2. Ibid., pp. 130-140.